The Story Leading up to Shadowlands (No Spoilers) and the Pre-Patch Event - Lore with Nobbel87
With Death's Rising in full swing during the Shadowlands pre-patch, Nobbel87 is here to explain the story behind the pre-patch event and important lore moments leading up to Shadowlands! For our latest collaboration, we'll be sticking to content that's already public and avoiding Shadowlands beta spoilers, but some of the linked articles may dive into them!
Important Lore Leading up to Shadowlands
The Shadowlands story may have officially started with the Death's Rising event, but looking back over WoW's history, parts of the story have already been in motion for years.
What is the Shadowlands?
Nobbel explains the purpose of the Shadowlands:
The Shadowlands is the Afterlife in Warcraft. You die, your spirit is picked up and brought over to be judged by the Arbiter--kind of like the sorting hat. The Arbiter in Oribos, your future capital city, determines in which domain amongst the infinite possibilities of the Shadowlands you belong based on how you lived your life. If you were a naughty soul, failing to do repent for your sins earns you a one way ticket into the Maw, where none ever escapes. This is Warcraft's version of hell, ruled over by the Jailer, eternal torment for those poor unfortunate souls. That’s how it’s supposed to go, but sometime during Legion this machine of death got broken and instead of the souls being sorted and sent to different realms...all that is now funneled directly into the Maw, into the loving embrace of the Jailer. It’s still uncertain as of yet what exactly broke it, but broken it is.
The Shadowlands expansion focuses on four distinct realms--Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald, and Revendreth. Every player must quest through all four zones on their first character, before choosing a covenant to join. Each zone has a different aesthetic and philosophy, and the questlines explore how they suffer from the anima drought in different ways.
While the zones are available only at Shadowlands' launch, players are already somewhat familiar with them due to the Afterlives cinematic series.
Did you live your life in service to others and does your soul call to continuing this path even in death? If so, Bastion is for you, home of the Kyrian Covenant. Under the leadership of the Archon you will sit around all day, meditate and reflect, forget the life you once lived to fulfill your next role...maybe even ferry the souls of the dead yourself. By forgetting who you used to be, you’ll be able to do this without judgement.
The Afterlives: Bastion cinematic follows the fate of Uther, the mighty Paladin who fell to Arthas Menethil. Uther appears to be a natural candidate for Bastion, but he cannot let go of the past and his betrayal by Arthas. With the help of Devos, he confronts Arthas at the moment of his death in Icecrown, tossing him into the Maw before his soul was judged by the Arbiter.
Bastion Zone GuideKyrian CovenantAfterlives: Bastion Analysis
But perhaps your life was one in pursuit of power...Maldraxxus is the place to go, home to the Necrolord covenant. A zone ruled over by the Primus, you get to join one of the five houses and learn new skills to defend the Shadowlands from threats both within and without. The Maldraxxus afterlives video shows us Draka, Thrall’s mother, ending up here.
In life she was not a warrior born, but a warrior made. Going through trials and tribulations to earn her strength. Her death came when she and Durotan exposed the corruption of the first Horde. Assassins took them out and left their baby to die in the wilds. Thrall of course went onto an illustrious future while his mother joins the House of Eyes and learns the skills of a mastery spy--even spying on the Burning Legion.
Maldraxxus Zone GuideNecrolord CovenantAfterlives: Maldraxxus Analysis
Are you a spirit tightly connected to nature? Ardenwaeld will be the area to hang out, home to the Night Fae covenant. The Winter Queen will look over you as you might even regenerate and return to the Emerald Dream, maybe even return to life. This zone has been described as the winter and autumn to the Emerald Dream's spring and summer.
The Ardenweald Afterlives video shows us that the wild god Ursoc ended up here after we were forced to put him down in Legion. They try to tend to his spirit, but souls are no longer being properly sorted. There’s an anima shortage and they have to make hard choices here. Decide which groves, which spirits still get a chance and which ones are lost forever.
Ardenweald Zone GuideNight Fae CovenantAfterlives: Ardenweald Analysis
Or maybe you’ve been very naughty and must pay for your sins in life, the good people of Revendreth will welcome you and help you repent. Home to the Venthyr covenant, Sire Denathrius leads the kingdom of sinners and saints until your soul is cleansed and you get a choice. Failing in Revendreth, refusing to pay for your sins earns you a one way ticket into the Maw, where you can keep Arthas’ company.
Revendreth Zone GuideVenthyr CovenantAfterlives: Revendreth Analysis
The Pathway into Shadowlands
At BlizzCon 2019, it was revealed that Sylvanas and the Jailer are working together. Looking back, we can trace Sylvanas' path across many expansions, even going back to Warcraft III.
Sylvanas died defending her home from Arthas and the Scourge during Warcraft III, as they made their way to the Sunwell to resurrect Kel'Thuzad. Arthas ripped her soul back and turned her into a banshee. After fighting to regain control of her soul and finding her body, Sylvanas took in the Forsaken, joined the Horde, and set on on her quest of making Arthas pay.
Arthas was defeated at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, with Bolvar Fordragon as his successor as "there must always be a Lich King." Sylvanas saw no reason to continue her cursed undead life and threw herself from the top of Icecrown onto the saronite spikes below. It is here where she first met the Jailer in the short story "Edge of Night," after briefly finding herself in a place of eternal torment, likely the Maw. We don't quite know the terms of her deal, but in return for aiding the Jailer, she was brought back to Azeroth and received a significant powerboost from the Jailer.
Sylvanas did not play a large role for the next few expansions, mainly using the val'kyr from "Edge of Night" to create brand-new Forsaken. She also entered into a bitter feud with Genn Greymane following the Battle for Gilneas and death of his son Liam. While these events at the time did not have a large impact outside of the Worgen starting zone, they've gained importance over the years as Genn's role in the story grows in importance.
In Legion, both Varian Wrynn and Vol'jin fell to the Burning Legion on the Broken Shore. Needing to name a successor, Vol'jin picked Sylvanas upon hearing a mysterious voice urging him on, which we'll learn more about in the Night Fae campaign. Also during Legion, Sylvanas focused her efforts on Stormheim, forming a mysterious bargain with Helya and attempting to subjugate Eyir, a Titan Watcher with the ability to create more Val'kyr. Genn Greymane ultimately thwarted her efforts, but the pact with Helya remained.
Sargeras plunging his sword into Azeroth at the end of Antorus, the Burning Throne, led to the discovery of Azerite, sparking a massive war between the Alliance and Horde which Sylvanas used to her advantage. At this point, the machine of death is broken, trapping all dead souls in the Maw which further increases the power of the Jailer and Sylvanas. While both factions initially plunge into a war, started with the Burning of Teldrassil, more leaders realize over time that Sylvanas is manipulating them, choosing instead to work together and rebuild. BFA then follows some plot points of Mists of Pandaria, but instead of ending with the Siege of Orgrimmar, the war ends with a Mak'gora. Saurfang challenges Sylvanas to a duel he knew he couldn't win, but even in death he claimed victory by exposing Sylvanas' true feelings towards the Horde and ending the war without more bloodshed.
Story of Shadow's Rising
Shadows Rising, the Shadowlands prequel novel, covers what happens between the Fourth War and Shadowlands cinematic. Nathanos and some of Sylvanas' forces were sent out on a special mission to take care of Bwonsamdi, as he stands in the way of her ultimate plans. Due to the intervention of Talanji and the Horde, that mission fails--leading Nathanos to disappoint his beloved.
While Nathanos was working on his mission, Sylvanas had her fateful duel with Bolvar, using the Helm of Domination to rip the sky above Icecrown, opening a pathway between worlds. The story ends with Sylvanas learning of Nathanos' failure and summarily dismissing him, which leads him to travel to the Marris Stead, his original home. It is here that the in-game events of the Shadowlands pre-patch start.
Story of Shadows Rising - Lore Synopsis
Story of Death's Rising
Several weeks before Shadowlands, the Death's Rising event started with a dramatic cinematic depicting Anduin, Baine, Thrall, and Jaina captured by Sylvanas' val'kyr agents. In the aftermath of Sylvanas' attack and the Icecrown veil ripped in two, we aid Bolvar Fordragon, the Knights of the Ebon Blade, and Argent Crusade in Icecrown. Here we find the zone infested with the Scourge, including familiar faces from past encounters like Professor Putricide and Patchwerk. As the event progresses, the Scourge invade capital cities, just like in Wrath of the Lich King, and we come face-to-face with Nathanos again.
The political implications of the attack are massive, and following the intro cinematic, many remaining
members share their reactions.
There are several notable things to do in the pre-patch, including farming rares for ilvl 110 loot, killing Nathanos for ilvl 115 weapons, completing dailies for Argent Commendations and catch-up gear, and hoping to get the 34-slot bag
Guide to the Shadowlands Pre-Patch Death's Rising Event and Scourge InvasionsHorde Quest SynopsisAlliance Quest Synopsis
Nathanos and Tyrande Cinematic
Nathanos is not exactly hiding from the world by staying at his home and it doesn’t take long for our forces to track him down. Just like it was in the days of Classic, heroes are asked to go to the Plaguelands and deal with the Blightcaller.
In this cinematic, Tyrande easily dispatches with Nathanos, expertly dodging all of his attacks and ignoring his taunts. However, Nathanos brags that his death will simply send him back to Sylvanas, which makes us wonder--was this a true victory? Tyrande is still on her quest for vengeance for all of Teldrassil, so even if Nathanos was dispatched for good, it wouldn't have felt like a true consolation for losing her home. We're curious if Nathanos will appear in a future patch, or if he'll even be in Sylvanas' good graces, following her frosty dismissal of him in Shadows Rising. We're also curious if Nathanos intended to face off against Tyrande, as she was expected to be captured by Sylvanas' agents along with the other faction leaders.
Night Fae Covenant StoryLore of NathanosLore of Tyrande
The story of Tyrande, the Night Warrior, and the fate of the Teldrassil spirits now stuck in the Maw will continue in Shadowlands and Ardenweald. However, going into the story further would be spoiler territory, so you'll have to wait until Shadowlands launch on November 23rd to see what's next!
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