World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is set to launch today. That’s exciting! There’s just one problem: Even players who log in every day may have missed out on bits and pieces of the story. In the lead-up to launch, Blizzard has used a multimedia method of storytelling with comics, novellas, animations, in-game quests, a novel and multiple levels of in-game cinematics.
At times, this worked out very well. At other times, players found themselves a little lost. We’ve rounded up all the entire story bridging Legion and Battle for Azeroth so that you can catch up, and then jump right into the fun of recruiting new allied races and exploring new continents.
Jaina, Magni and Windrunners
The first thing to check out are the three comics that have been released on Blizzard’s website. Jaina: Reunion brings Jaina back to Kul Tiras for a quick recon mission. It’s a nice introduction to her mother and sets the stage for Warbringers: Jaina, the first of three animated shorts about the biggest story characters in Battle for Azeroth.
The second comic is Magni: The Speaker. Magni was kind of a terrible father in life, but now he’s dealing with the pressure of protecting Azeroth. This comic gives us some background on what Magni is up to now that Azeroth is bleeding, and how his relationship with Moira is going.
Finally, there’s Three Sisters. This comic is mandatory reading, especially if you’re a fan of Alleria or Sylvanas. The three Windrunner sisters reunite in their homeland and play a game from their childhood, but Sylvanas spoils the fun by bowing out early ... and calling off her assassins in the shadows. This comic shows us the whispers Alleria is dealing with after becoming a creature of the void (and those whispers get very insistent when Sylvanas is around), and it’s also the likely the last time we see the Windrunner sisters together without someone being ready to kill the other.
After the comics, the first Warbringers animation takes place, following Jaina’s journey.
Before the Storm
After Sargeras stabs Azeroth, the players complete an in-game event where they take their powerful Artifact weapons (that we’ve spent all of Legion powering up and enhancing) and use them to drain the initial corruption out of Sargeras’ sword and the remaining wound. There’s just one problem: The wound is bleeding Azerite, an extremely powerful mineral.
We get to see a goblin and gnome scientist work together under Sylvanas’ orders to harness the power of Azerite for weapons of war. The side-plot in the novel Before the Storm shows that Azerite can bring people back from the brink of death, stop nearly any weapon when made into armor, and nullify poisons. Sylvanas and goblin overlord Gallywix are unimpressed.
Before the Storm covers the immediate aftermath of this discovery and delves into Sylvanas Winderunner and Anduin Wrynn’s reactions and mentalities. Anduin Wrynn, in a bid for peace, sets up a summit where Forsaken can re-connect with their dead human relatives. Sylvanas is loath to agree, but she’s in Orgrimmar these days, trying to cement her power over the Horde and control the flow of Azerite. In her place, a civilian group named the Desolate Council are running the Undercity. Sylvanas recognizes the delicate political nature of the situation and hesitantly agrees, but only allows the Desolate Council to attend the meeting.
There’s just one problem: Calia Menethil. Priests met Calia, the sister of Arthas and the technical heir to Lordaeron, in their class campaign. Calia helps Anduin set up this summit, and then asks to come along. Anduin agrees; Calia seems innocent enough, and she claims she has no interest in reclaiming her throne.
The summit starts off as one would expect. Some of the Desolate Council are immediately rejected by their human relatives, and they return to Sylvanas. Others reunite with family members and begin the process of re-building bridges. All is going well, until Sylvanas recognizes Calia Menethil — and worse, Calia tries to bring a number of the Forsaken back to the Alliance. Sylvanas murders Calia and every member of the Desolate Council on the field, even those who had no reason to defect.
Calia is taken back to the Netherlight Temple and raised — through a combination of light and shadow — as a new kind of undead, touched by the light. Calia is now working with Alonsus Faol to figure out her purpose in life, and we presumably won’t see the results of her journey for some time.
The Burning of Teldrassil
Here’s where things get messy. This story tore the fanbase apart with infighting, partially over the events in game and partially the ways in which they were revealed.
Players engaged in a short campaign to either aid or hinder Sylvanas on her path to the tree, depending on whether they were Horde or Alliance. The short video Warbringers: Sylvanas shows the moment of the tree burning.
The novellas A Good War and Elegy are required reading here for plot fiends, especially if you’re Horde. These paragraphs are considered some of the most important context for Sylvanas’ actions and expand the story far beyond what she explains in game:
Sylvanas’s eyes did not waver, even in the face of his rage. “If I dedicated myself to peace with the Alliance, would it last a year?”
“Yes,” Saurfang said curtly.
“How about two years? Five? Ten? Fifty?”
Saurfang felt the trap closing in on him, and he did not like it. “We fought side‐by‐side against the Burning Legion. That creates bonds that are not easily broken.”
“Time breaks every bond.” Sylvanas leaned across the table. Her words flew like arrows. “What do you believe?Will peace last five years or fifty?”
He leaned forward, too, his face inches away from hers. Neither blinked. “What I believe doesn’t matter, Warchief. What do you believe?”
“I believe the exiles of Gilneas will never forgive the Horde for driving them away. I believe the living humans of Lordaeron think it is blasphemy that my people still hold their city. I believe the ancient divide between our allies in Silvermoon and their kin in Darnassus is not easily mended.” There was a smile on Sylvanas’s face. It was not a pleasant one.
“I believe the Darkspear tribe hasn’t forgotten who drove them from their islands,” she continued. “I believe every orc your age remembers being imprisoned for years in filthy camps, wallowing in despair and surviving on human scraps. I believe every human remembers the tales of the terrible Horde that caused so much destruction in its first invasion, and I believe they blame every orc for that, no matter what your people have done to redeem yourselves. And I remember very well that I and my first Forsaken were once loyal Alliance citizens. We died for that banner, and our reward was to be hunted as vermin. I believe that there will be no permanent peace with the Alliance—not unless we win it on the battlefield on our terms. And believing that, answer this, Saurfang: what use is delaying the inevitable?”
After the Burning of Teldrassil, the Alliance struck back against the Horde by taking the territory of Lordaeron and the Undercity. (Whether this was a rightful reclaiming of land or an aggressive action against the native citizens depends on your perspective.) The Alliance, with the help of Jaina Proudmoore’s fortuitous return, managed to drive the Forsaken from Undercity. Sylvanas, in return, bombed the entire city with Blight, leaving it completely ruined for both sides.
Unlike the Burning of Teldrassil, the Battle for Lordaeron takes place mostly in game. The in-game content covers all of the main interactions that are relevant to a Battle for Azeroth, but there are two cinematics that cover the beginning of the battle and it’s initial stages. The first is Old Soldier, which debuted recently at ChinaJoy 2018.
The second is the Battle for Azeroth launch cinematic, which debuted at BlizzCon 2017 and will play as soon as you launch the game.
Altogether, that adds up to two novels’ worth of writing, three comics, two animations (one played in game, one external to the game), and a cinematic of material that you won’t be able to find in World of Warcraft. If you want to know everything about Battle for Azeroth before you dive in, you have about six hours until the game debuts in a global launch, so make yourself some tea and dig in.