With the next World of Warcraft expansion approaching, fans are digging through the test realms and datamined beta in order to discern what might be coming next. Shadowlands is a big expansion that takes an unprecedented step in taking us to a whole new plane of reality: the afterlife, where every soul goes where they die, judged and sent to a particular realm. As players dig through written logs and cutscene text, they sift through the metaphorical tea leaves in an attempt to figure out what a future patch, storyline, or even expansion might be. But forming these theories often requires referencing a specific chart.
Hints about the chart’s importance have come up during Legion, Battle for Azeroth, and now the Shadowlands beta is being much more blatant about it. Creators in the World of Warcraft community make videos with titles like “The Truth Behind The Shadowlands CREATION How Life And Order BETRAYED the Cosmos” and “THIS IS INSANE - The Evil Behind EVERYTHING In Warcraft Is?”
This graphic was released five years ago in the book World of Warcraft: Chronicles, which provides an in-universe overarching history of the entire Warcraft universe, from origin stories and ancient histories to play-by-play recaps of the RTS games and MMO. It’s still one of the most discussed part of Warcraft, and it backs up everyone’s big theories and wild predictions.
There’s just one problem: if you’re not entirely in-tune and onboard with World of Warcraft lore, this chart won’t mean anything to you. Luckily, we can explain it to you before the Shadowlands frenzy begins in earnest.
In the middle of this map, we can see “reality,” next to a little picture of the planet of Azeroth. Your average peasant has no idea that anything beyond this exists, and even for players our adventures have largely taken place here, with brief trips to the Emerald Dream. The Shadowlands and Emerald Dream are planes of existence that exist a layer above reality. The Emerald Dream is an alpha blueprint of sorts, a version of our world that has never been touched by people. Druids hang out in the Emerald Dream all the time. Meanwhile, the Shadowlands is where souls go when they die. Every single version of heaven and hell are compressed into this little section of the astral map.
But what about the rest of the chart? What’s going on with all of those circles? This stuff matters, if you’re deeply interested in following Warcraft’s story.
In a recent popular thread on the Warcraft Lore subreddit, fans eagerly posted about a piece of datamined lore from the Shadowlands beta. “Holy fucking shit this could be big,” said a poster, connecting the beta info and a prophecy to the contents of this cosmic chart. “This makes me very excited and could be one of the better plot points going further.”
Here’s why the chart figures so heavily into even brand new discussions — it laid the groundwork for the next half a decade of story development, ramping up in our introduction to the Shadowlands.
There are six primal powers: Light and Shadow, Life and Death, Order and Disorder. These six forces shape the entire multiverse. World of Warcraft has expanded over the years to include multiple timelines, a whole space worth of planets, and tons of alternate dimensions. The players are just teeny tiny ants in that ecosystem, and the six primal powers are the big dogs. Those powers raise armies and create creatures in their own likeness. We’ve met, and even defeated, a few of those enemies like Fel’s The Burning Legion, or the Shadow-aligned Old Gods. But it’s always been at a huge cost, with victories taking place over multiple expansions.
This chart suggests that every cosmic army or threat we’ve met has a big papa who could crush our planet into dust, and that’s alarming. Players who listen to shadowy forces, like the Old Gods or the Void, have also heard whispers that suggest this cosmic chart is very important.
For instance, the raid boss Il’gynoth has shown up in both Legion and Battle for Azeroth to share chilling prophecies. Among them are the aforementioned “The cunning ones kneel before six masters, but serve only one,” and “Six seats at the high table. Six mouths that hunger. One will consume all others.”
N’Zoth, the Old God who haunted us throughout Battle for Azeroth, also whispered a few things like: “The Light has struck a bargain with the enemy of all.”
Through these lines of dialogue, it seems that Blizzard is laying the groundwork for new cosmic foes. World of Warcraft has gotten really weird in the past few years, with the focus of the franchise slowly shifting from humans and orcs slogging it out with axes and swords, to everyone jumping aboard a giant crystal spaceship to stop a big angry fire-man from stabbing the entire planet.
With Shadowlands, we’ll be heading to explore a new part of the chart that we haven’t seen before. Blizzard will likely be laying the groundwork for big bads like the Void Lords to show up, and we may find out answers to questions like the identity of the moon goddess Elune. Wherever we end up going, though, one thing seems certain: The chart is essential.