WoW! Thoughts! — On Lord of the Clans

Thoughts on how Lord of the Clans reflects the characters and events we are seeing play out on Draenor.

Reading Lord of the Clans for the first time while the initial content for Warlords of Draenor is still fresh is surprisingly timely. The events of Thrall’s ascension from orphan to Warchief literally remain with him today, and it casts an interesting light on how he will deal with the Iron Horde as the time comes.

The book essentially recounts the transition from the old (evil) Horde as influenced by Gul’dan and the Shadow Council in Warcraft II to the more diplomatic Horde that players first encounter in Warcraft III and are now members of by telling the story of Thrall’s youth. The novel begins with the failed meeting between Durotan and Draka with Ogrim Doomhammer as the Frostwolf Chieftan tries to warn Orgrim of Gul’dan’s machinations. This culminates with Durotan and Draka being ambushed and assassinated, and baby Thrall being left for dead. Draka displays the same spirit witnessed in Warlords, as she bravely ventures with Durotan on their fateful mission.

One of the major themes of the book is the concept of mercy, and how Thrall learns mercy and then has to apply it in various situations where it would be detrimental to succomb to the bloodlist and kill his opponent. This is contrasted with Thrall’s hatred for Aedelas Blackmoore, the lieutenant-general who enslaved him as a young orc. Throughout the book, when bloodlust begins to overtake Thrall, he sees visions of Blackmoore and risks losing control. He regains his composure each time and finally is able to battle Blackmoore in one-on-one combat before letting the bloodlust overtake him as he slays his rival. It is interesting in comparing this with his dealings with Garrosh as the end of Mists of Pandaria and throughout Warlords.

Thrall goes to Garrosh in the hopes of talking to him, just as he approaches Durnholde and peacefully requests that Blackmoore release the orcish prisoners. Both Garrosh and Blackmoore rebuff Thrall’s offer, and combat is the result. Thrall has no qualms about killing either enemy when the fight is over, either. Garrosh only survives the Siege of Orgrimmar because Varian intervened as Thrall was about to drop a deathblow with the Doomhammer. When Varian is absent in the duel in Nagrand, Thrall finishes the job with all his Shamanic power on display. It is fitting that just as the quest that leads to their battle is called “And Justice for Thrall,” after Thrall kills Blackmoore and is questioned about his actions by Sargeant, Thrall responds, “Justice was my goal.” Although both deaths were personal for Thrall, justice was always his paramount pursuit.

Furthermore, the Garrosh and Blackmoore fights are compelling because both play with the themes of how people can influence each other. Blackmoore’s last words to Thrall are the taunt, “You are… what I made you… I am so proud,” leaving Thrall to contemplate Blackmoore’s influence in his life. When Thrall discusses this with Drek’thar, the elder Shaman points out that Thrall was indeed made by Blackmoore, as well as Grommash, Orgrim, and even Drek’thar himself, as they all shaped and influenced Thrall in various ways throughout the novel. Comparatively, Garrosh’s final words to Thrall are, “Thrall! You made me what I am,” to which Thrall responds, “No, you chose your own destiny,” and unleashes a massive lightning strike to slay Hellscream. When faced with the same accusation – that an individual can be responsible for another’s life – Thrall responds with the lesson that he learned.  His upbringing was the result of several actors influencing him, combined with his own notions of honor and mercy.  Similarly, Garrosh was not only influenced by Thrall, but also by the shadow of his father, as well as the other leaders of the Horde, who defined him by their opposition.  Thrall’s lesson from Blackmoore is that he cannot claim responsibility for the atrocities of Garrosh, but he fails to consider that Garrosh never had the support network Thrall was granted.  Despite Blackmoore, Thrall had Sargeant and Taretha as positive influences at a young age, and Grom, Orgrim, and Drek’thar as mentors when older.  Thrall’s own life experiences allow him to absolve himself of responsibility for Garrosh, while blinding him to the differences that led Garrosh down a different, more violent path.

When first encountered in The Burning Crusade, Garrosh is depressed and suffering under the failings of his father.  It was not until Thrall arrived in Outland to educate Garrosh about his deceased parent (much like Drek’thar and Orgrim educated Thrall about his deceased parents) that Garrosh realized that he could fulfill a larger role. Thrall sees his relationship with Garrosh as though he placed responsibility and trust in Hellscream, much as he did years earlier with Grom, and Garrosh failed him. But Garrosh sees that Thrall placed this responsibililty upon him and then abandoned him to manage it on his own. In that regard, both Garrosh and Thrall are right in their parting words, just as Blackmoore was right in his parting words with Thrall.

Also of note in Lord of the Clans is the formation of the Horde under Thrall. After he visits with the Warsong, the orc journeys off to find his own clan (the Frostwolves) who have taken up residence in the Alterac Mountains. He finds them under the leadership of the blind Shaman Drek’thar, who is also one of the first Draenor natives we encounter after traveling through the Red Portal. In the novel, Drek’thar serves as an advisor to Thrall, who is still learning to manage their relationship. After assuming the mantle of Warchief when Orgrim is killed, Thrall expects Drek’thar to speak at the funeral until Grom nudges the young orc to make a speech.

In both Warlords and Lord of the Clans, Orgrim Doomhammer gets short shrift. In Warlords he shows up for two brief scenes in Talador where he first martials some troops for Blackhand, and then seemingly for no reason turns on him during the climactic fight at the docks only to be slain before the cinematic can even begin. While the story of Doomhammer turning on and attacking Blackhand is intended to mirror their battle from Warcraft and Doomhammer’s ascension to Warchief, the fact that it happens so quickly without any buildup is disappointing.  Similarly, Doomhammer is introduced in the novel solely as a way to establish Thrall as the Warchief and provide him with the iconic armor and hammer. Orgrim shows up, makes Thrall his second in command, and then shortly after is killed in a raid on an internment camp. Admittedly, Doomhammer’s primary narrative happened in the earlier games, and he is regarded as a bit of a mythological legend at this point, but Orgrim’s appearance in Lord of the Clans felt very utilitarian.

The other interesting character to watch is Grommash Hellscream. While he is the leader of the Iron Horde and currently our primary threat, in Lord of the Clans he is presented as a ferocious, yet fragile, leader. In Hellscream, the farseer sees the events of Lord of the Clans and Warcraft III, and learns that Grommash is able to drink the blood and survive the blood haze and subsequent lethargy that overtakes the orcish race. Grommash is clearly suffering from this lethargy in the novel, as Thrall observes moments where the orc briefly appears weak and gaunt, as if Grommash is struggling to maintain the facade that he is as brutish and strong as his repuation would indicate. While Grommash has united the clans in Warlords and is serving as Warchief of the Iron Horde, he falls in line behind Thrall after his ascension as Warchief in Lord of the Clans. The last few chapters are astounding to read, as Thrall barks orders to Hellscream and he obeys without hesitation. The Hellscream of Draenor would never listen to Thrall, if anyone, so casually, and it is strange to see him so cowed and obedient.

Even Grommash’s introductions are similar. When Thrall first encounters the Warsong clan, he is regarded cautiously and is forced into combat against three of their finest warriors before Hellscream will reveal himself. Likewise, in Hellscream, when Garrosh encounters the Warsong for the first time, Grommash orders him to face four of warriors in the Mok’Rogahn before he will entertain the stranger. In both instances, despite being poorly equipped and outnumbered, the visiting orc bested his competition. While Thrall’s trial is not called Mok’Rogahn by name, the Warsong are consistent in their customs across timelines.

Furthermore, the involvement of Grommash makes cinematic from the end of the Tanaan Jungle even more compelling. Just before Grommash appears with the other warlords atop the ridge and challenges, “Are you so eager to meet death?” Thrall looks to the ridge with an expression of angry resolve. Sadly, the camera does not cut back to him when Grommash reveals himself. Does Thrall know Grom is there? Varian and Maraad knew that Grommash was part of the Iron Horde during Lords of War, so does that mean Thrall did too? (Again, I wish Blizzard told us HOW they knew this!)


Lord of the Clans depicts the events of a young Thrall’s life. We see him grow from an infant to a youthful Warchief, granted the power at a seemingly early age, but full of wisdom and maturity that belies his years. In the interim he has founded Orgrimmar, become the greatest Shaman alive, fought Deathwing, and started a family. Presently, this balding, middle-aged orc rallies with us against the Iron Horde. Many events in this expansion are cyclical, and Thrall’s life is an example of how history can repeat and reflect itself. It will be interesting to see how this alternate history further affects Thrall as we progress through Warlords of Draenor.

WoW! Blurbs!

WoW Insider was killed, so the staff rolled an alt-site called Blizzard Watch.  It like the Iron Man Challenge for web sites.

WoW subcriptions stay over 10 million.  And only 2500 of you gave to the Blizzard Watch patreon.  Tsk tsk tsk.

The Warlords of Draenor soundtrack was nominated for an International Film Music Critics Association Award.  And yet its not good enough to play in your garrison.  Tsk tsk tsk.

Hotfixes are even hotter because Blackrock Foundry.

Blizzard is reporting issues with Comcast connections.  Comcast is my ISP, so THEY ARE GREAT PEOPLE WHO WOULD NEVER SLOW THE CONNECTION OF SOMEONE WHO LOVED THEM.  RIGHT!?!?!?

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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