The Burning of Teldrassil: Morally Grey or downright Evil?

So now we know who burned the World Tree Teldrassil, and boy it was a doozy of a reveal…

Needless to say there are spoilers aplenty in this article for the second part of the War of the Thorns questlines, so if you’ve avoided it so far (how?), then come back and read this later!

Ok, so now we know that it wasn’t some third party like Azshara (that was not on my radar) or Jaina trying to provoke war between the factions by inciting the Alliance to go full on as revenge for the burning of Teldrassil.

Blizzard, when the burning was first teased at Blizzcon last year, told us not to jump to conclusions and that the story would be “morally grey”. Of course everyone’s first suspicion was that it would be Sylvanas, given she was in the official artwork for the scene:

Sylvanas, Nathanos Blightcaller and Saurfang stand before an as-yet unburnt Teldrassil…

So when Blizzard stated that we should wait for the story to play out, everyone who likes Sylvanas, myself included, breathed a sigh of relief and immediately began working out theories as to who it could be. Theories ranged wildly:

  • Alleria Windrunner
  • Anduin Wrynn
  • Malfurion
  • Azshara
  • Agents of N’Zoth
  • And of course Sylvanas herself

I personally thought that it could’ve turned out to be the Alliance themselves, burning it in a Scorched Earth move to prevent it being taken by the Horde, giving them access to an important and strategically fortified location, especially so close to the Exodar and the home of the Draenai (like anyone would really care about the Exodar anyway!).

So yesterday the cinematic for Warbringers: Sylvanas was released alongside the second week of the War of the Thorns questchain, as it was finally revealed who burnt the tree:

Now, as a long-term player of the Horde for over 9 years, I got to know Sylvanas’ character pretty well. She was my favourite leader Horde side after Green Jesus decided to go off the reservation in Cataclysm. I loved her characterisation and her ice-cool cunning and desire to preserve her people’s way of life. In that, she was no different from any of the other leaders on either faction, and that’s acceptable.

However in Cataclysm things started to get a lot greyer, morally speaking. Sylvanas, after Icecrown and the defeat of Arthas, tried to kill herself by throwing herself from the peak of Icecrown to the ground below. However she was resurrected by the Valkyr and since then she has both been protected by them and used them to create more Forsaken in a somewhat similar fashion to how Arthas raised the Scourge.

This is how her character remained until Legion, when at the beginning of the expansion the Horde lost yet another leader in Vol’jin (his reign lasted pretty much a single, weak expansion), after losing Thrall to his doubt and the deposing of Garrosh. Up stepped Sylvanas, appointed by Vol’jin with his dying breath, stating that “many will not understand”. And he was right. For as much as I love Sylvanas, she has always been more concerned with the Forsaken than she has ever cared for the Horde as a whole. Baine or Lor’themar would’ve been a more solid choice IMO.

So for the duration of Legion Sylvanas seems to carry out her duties as Warchief with a degree of “Ok, this could possibly work”, but as the expansion began to draw to a close, things started to go south with her characterisation…

With the introduction of Allied Races, Sylvanas began to show players that she was more concerned with the player’s loyalty to her and her wishes than those of the overall Horde: “Serve the Horde, Serve ME well, and you shall be rewarded…”

Then came the War of the Thorns…

Jesus, that first week, as a horde character, was bloody hard to play through:

After playing through week 1 of War of the Thorns quests on my Horde Hunter yesterday, my reaction is pretty much:

Thank the gods my Druid isn't Horde. Because if she was, I'd feel like a complete and utter fucking bastard going through that. read more