Here there be spoilers
In case the title didn't give it away: this post is about the Warchief, and to talk about the Warchief, I necessarily need to talk freely about Tides of War. There's also minor spoilers about some in-game quests, but none of them are from Mists of Pandaria, just in case that's the kind of thing you're worried about.
### The problems with the current regime
Let's not mince words here: Garrosh Hellscream is leading the Horde down the path of self-destruction, apparently in the name of glory - specifically for the orcs, not the Horde as a whole. Garrosh has made it fairly clear that his Horde is an orc-centric Horde, with his allies only being useful when they have something to contribute to further his plans. This "our race above all" attitude has even filtered down to people like cooking trainer Marogg, who regularly sends the trolls to steal from the goblins and everyone else to steal from the trolls.
I won't lie - for a while, I was iffy about Garrosh. If you watch the video of the Lore Q&A from BlizzCon 2010, yes, I'm the guy who yells "Basic Campfire for Warchief!" at Metzen. (There's my fifteen
minutes seconds of fame.) He spends all of Wrath of the Lich King being a belligerent ass. Yet even I was starting to warm to him more recently. Sure, he's been painted for all of Cataclysm as a jerk, but he's a jerk who represents "old school" Horde values, such as honor above all. Alliance players (which is most of my readership, what the hell) never get to see any side of him but the warmongering barbarian, but Horde players get to see a little bit more of Garrosh's "good side," such as it is, by questing through the newly-revamped Stonetalon Mountains - where we learn that he actually can listen and learn to voices of wisdom.
The part where Garrosh briefly grows a personality
The head of the Horde operations in Stonetalon Mountains is one Overlord Krom'gar. Krom'gar has some very loyal troops, largely inspired by what they perceive as Garrosh's attitude: as Blood Guard Aldo Rockrain tells you:
...in Hellscream's army we kick butt and take names. Gone are the days of our people starving in the streets of Orgrimmar as we sign treaties with elves. We take what we need now. Kalimdor belongs to the Horde!
Your work under Overlord Krom'gar is rather brutal but typical Horde work - re-arming goblin-made "Elf Killer" mines, lighting tents on fire, defending Malaka'jin from an Alliance-Grimtotem alliance, and so on - until you get to Cliffwalker Post. Then you get to see the other side of Overlord Krom'gar (or I guess more of the same side, since he really only has one side, and it's ugly).
It starts innocuously enough - you head to Battlescar Valley, where General Grebo - Krom'gar's second-in-command - informs you that Chieftain Cliffwalker and the tauren mean to commit "treason" against the Horde, by claiming that the old tree in the center of the valley is just a school for druids and not a weapon of mass destruction. Cliffwalker has sent his son Orthus to find proof, and sends you after to meet him - but something has gone wrong - Orthus is dead, clutching a Krom'gar General's Insignia in his hand.
Naturally, you and Cliffwalker seek justice - make no mistake, Garrosh's pro-orc attitude has wrought this atrocity - and return to Krom'gar with the news, after which you take Grebo's place as General - but this is not merely promotion. When you return to Cliffwalker Post, you find the buildings on fire, Krom'gar Enforcers on wolfback, and Masha Cliffwalker - Orthus' mother - dead in the center of the village while the Chieftain kneels to Krom'gar. Krom'gar's intentions are made clear: he intends to bomb the entirety of Thal'darah Grove back to the stone age.
Clearly, Krom'gar needs a lesson in what it means to be Horde. And who else to deliver that but... Garrosh? (Emphasis during the Krom'gar/Garrosh exchange in the below script is mine.)
Overlord Krom'gar says: Watch now, Cliffwalker, as this battle comes to its glorious conclusion.
High Chieftain Cliffwalker says: You are about to cross a terrible threshold, Krom'gar. May the Earth Mother have mercy on your soul.
Krom'gar releases the balloon holding the goblin bomb and sends it towards Thal'darah Grove. On arrival, the balloon drops the bomb directly on it, obliterating the entire area, leaving a large crater behind.
Overlord Krom'gar says: Look upon the world, Cliffwalker, and see the might of the Horde!
A portal from Orgrimmar suddenly forms nearby. Garrosh Hellscream and his guards emerge from the portal.
Garrosh Hellscream says: What have you done, Krom'gar?
Krom'gar bows before Garrosh.
Overlord Krom'gar says: Warchief! I... I was carrying out your command!
Garrosh Hellscream says: My command?
Garrosh Hellscream says: Was my command to murder innocents, Krom'gar?
Overlord Krom'gar says: Warchief... Sir... I...
Garrosh Hellscream says: Am I a murderer, Krom'gar?
Overlord Krom'gar says: No, Warchief!
Garrosh Hellscream says: Then I ask you again: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!
Krom'gar begins to cower before Garrosh.
Garrosh Hellscream says: I sent you into Stonetalon Mountains with an army. Your orders were to secure this land for the Horde.
Garrosh Hellscream says: Instead, you laid waste to the land. Murdered innocents. Children even...
Garrosh Hellscream says: I spent a very long time in Northrend, Krom'gar. I learned much about the Horde in that time.
Garrosh Hellscream says: While there, a wise old war hero told me something that I would carry with me forever...
Garrosh Hellscream says: "Honor," Krom'gar, "No matter how dire the battle... never forsake it."
Garrosh Hellscream says: Overlord Krom'gar, you have disgraced the Horde.
Garrosh Hellscream says: You have brought shame to us as a people.
Garrosh Hellscream says: By my right as Warchief, I hereby relieve you of your duty.
Garrosh picks up Krom'gar by the throat and lifts him over the edge of the lift bridge.
Garrosh Hellscream says: YOU ARE DISMISSED.
Garrosh drops Krom'gar off the edge, sending him to his death. He then turns toward the hero.
Garrosh Hellscream says: And you, <race>!
High Chieftain Cliffwalker says: Wait, Warchief! Please! <Name> was the hero responsible for uncovering this corruption. <He/She> tried to stop Krom'gar!
High Chieftain Cliffwalker says: Have mercy, Warchief.
Garrosh Hellscream says: Mercy... Your wife and child were murdered. Your kin wiped out. Your home burned to the ground.
Garrosh Hellscream says: Mercy... Chieftain, on this day I learn from you.
Garrosh Hellscream says: <Name>, Krom'gar's army is no more. Your rank no longer has meaning. If you wish to truly help the Horde, your considerable power could be used in Desolace or in the Southern Barrens.
Garrosh Hellscream says: The choice is yours to make.
Garrosh Hellscream says: Let honor guide you, <name>. Do not forget that Hellscream's eyes are always upon you.
And then something went wrong
Things aren't exactly rosy internally, either. Tides of War introduces us to a new face in the Horde - Malkorok, a Blackrock orc, formerly in the service of Rend Blackhand. If anything, Malkorok is even more hardline than Garrosh. Malkorok's position under Blackhand was, basically, to silence dissenters of the Dark Horde - those who disagreed with Rend, or simply didn't cheer loudly enough, "disappeared."
The same thing is taking place during Tides, and Malkorok isn't exactly subtle about it - especially since he's using the Kor'kron as his personal thugs. Poor Kor'jus ends up on the receiving end of some Blackrock brutality. Malkorok is basically Garrosh's right hand man, and if anything, Garrosh is well aware of what's going on - although maybe not to its fullest extent.
"This is the task you set me to, great warchief," said Malkorok. "To root out those who would defy your leadership and thus become traitors to the glorious Horde."
"But if we are too suspicious of our allies, their patience will grow thin," retorted Garrosh. "No, Malkorok. The time is now to fight the Alliance, not each other. And what a fight it will be!"
"And if Baine or Vol'jin, or others, do plot against you?"
"If you have proof rather than irritated words, then, as always, you have free rein. Which I know well you have already exercised."
The initial war meeting for Garrosh's great plan - to march on Northwatch, destroy Theramore and Feathermoon Stronghold, then turn their sights north towards Ashenvale and all points elsewhere on Kalimdor - is met with outright protest from the other leaders, yet they all assent in the end, largely out of fear for their own people - either from Garrosh, in the case of the trolls and the tauren, or from being left alone to face the Alliance, in the case of the Forsaken and the blood elves.
And then there's the attack on Theramore. Hoo boy. Murdering innocents? Using weapons of mass destruction? Destroying threats where none existed previously? Boy, this sure sounds familiar.
By the time of Tides of War, Garrosh is behaving exactly like Krom'gar - or worse.
This is virtually a complete 180 from the personality we'd gotten to see him exhibit briefly during the Cataclysm. I had high hopes that Garrosh had settled into the role of leader - a warlike leader, perhaps, but not one who'd stoop to such atrocities. Putting the 'War' in 'Warcraft' is one thing - Garrosh's actions are another entirely. There's no one happy with Garrosh right now except maybe Garrosh.
- He's lost the implicit support of the Horde's other leaders - Lor'themar, Baine, Vol'jin, and Sylvanas - and most or all of their troops.
- The destruction of Theramore, 'nuff said.
- The return of the dark shaman, wielding corrupted elemental magic not seen since the Fel Horde that streamed out of the Dark Portal, almost threatening to cause a second Cataclysm.
On the subject of the last one, there's actually an interesting tie-in to the new Ragefire Chasm. Some remnants of the Twilight's Hammer have taken up residence down there, attracting some former members of the Horde as they summon up lava hounds and baby Magmaws, attempting to duplicate the steps of elemental ascension using energies from the Firelands. One of the quests, A New Enemy, is innocuous enough if you're Horde - in fact, it's never actually explained where they're coming from, only that they're dangerous - until you turn in the quest.
Good work, <name>. This will make it very clear how Garrosh is going to deal with failures...
The Alliance version of this same quest is more explicit about the source of the Dark Shaman:
The Horde is using dark magic to control beasts and corrupt their brethren down here, <name>.
Mistaken identity? This is SI:7. I'd say if anyone has their facts straight, it's them. One way or another, Garrosh is condoning what is, essentially, an integration of the Twilight's Hammer's methods into the Horde. No wonder Metzen mentioned the Siege of Orgrimmar: dethroning Garrosh is inevitable!
I also don't think he'll "learn his lesson" and stay Warchief if we just beat some sense into him. Garrosh has too many crimes on his head to answer for now. A reckoning is coming. Clearly, we're going to need a new Warchief. But who? This is a popular topic of discussion almost anywhere, and everyone has their favorite. Let's talk about some of the candidates.
Let's get this out of the way
Basic Campfire cannot be warchief. It is a fire. Besides, that's not even its name anymore. It's Cooking Fire now.
Look, I'm all for a Warchief who will get the Horde fired up again, but this is just ridiculous.
Half a stack of Peacebloom is also right out.
The most obvious candidates for Warchief are, of course, those who are already leaders of the Horde or otherwise high-ranking members. They have leadership potential, they have a vested interest in the continuance of the Horde, and they're generally pretty powerful in their own right.
Baine Bloodhoof is a popular choice. He's a young, fresh face in the Horde, taking the place of his father after Magatha Grimtotem tricked Garrosh into wounding the old bull with a poisoned axe. He's already got plenty of cross-faction ties - he's friends with young Anduin Wrynn, and he was responsible for Jaina being prepared for the attack on Theramore, futile as it was. He is the main voice of dissent in Tides of War, largely due to having a wide enough view to realize the Horde is being led to its own self-destruction.
Yet I think the issue with Baine lies in his passivity. There are many times in Tides of War where Baine is perfectly content to take his ball and go home, yet he fears for the retribution of Garrosh and the orcs - so much so, in fact, that while he does commit treason of a sort by warning Jaina of the attack, he does nothing to stop it. His loyalty lies with the Horde, his heart lies with the tauren. Baine also has little experience as a leader, having more-or-less had the role thrust upon him suddenly by Cairne's death. Baine may be a good person(...cow...thing...), but I'm not convinced he's ready to handle the bag of cats that is the modern Horde.
If there's any name more commonly put forth as a candidate for Warchief than Baine, it's Vol'jin, leader of the Darkspear Trolls. Vol'jin is a certified badass - he helped stop the takeover of the Undercity, he finally reclaimed the Darkspear's own home islands, and he certainly has no love for Garrosh. Like most of the Horde leaders, Vol'jin's loyalty is to the Horde as a whole, not the Warchief - if there's any NPC I'd say we're almost guaranteed to see during the events of the Siege, it's Vol'jin.
Ya be no Warchief of mine. Ya've not earned my respect and I'll not be seein' tha Horde destroyed by ya foolish thirst for war. ... I know exactly what I'll be doin' about it, son of Hellscream. I'll be watchin' as ya people slowly become aware of ya ineptitude. I'll laugh as dey grow ta despise ya as I do. And when tha time comes dat ya failure is complete and ya "power" is meaningless, I will be dere to end ya rule, swiftly and silently. Ya will spend ya reign glancin' over ya shoulda and fearin' tha shadows, for when tha time comes and ya blood be slowly drainin' out, ya will know exactly who fired da arrow dat pierced ya heart.
Yet therein lies the issue: Vol'jin is the shadow. When things got bad, he did what even Baine couldn't bring himself to do: he cut and ran, and took the Darkspear home, nearly cutting ties with the Horde. More than anyone, Vol'jin's loyalty lies with the trolls - and there is a question of whether the orcs would accept him as a leader, after seeing both his attitude towards people he doesn't like and his willingness to pull the Darkspear out of the Horde.
Vol'jin's a pretty awesome dude when he's not sulking on the Echo Isles, and I think he'd be an okay Warchief, but I don't think the Horde would necessarily accept him, and he would not be my first choice. It'd be nice to see him back in Grommash Hold again, though.
**Sylvanas Windrunner,** the Banshee Queen. If anyone has the power to simply seize the Horde for herself, this is it. She's already died - twice. She still commands val'kyr, ensuring that any enemy who falls before her has a chance to be added to her ranks (though it doesn't always take). She's no slouch in battle herself, and she's at least _moderately_ loyal. Sylvanas for Warchief(tainess)?
Probably not. If you look in the dictionary under "hidden agenda," you'll find a picture of Sylvanas' undead face next to it. She's never beaten around the bush regarding her true goals: death to the living, long live the Forsaken. She's ruthless and cunning, and brooks no dissension, treason, or cross-faction ties - see also Koltira Deathweaver. _She's Garrosh 2.0._ Mark my words: if Sylvanas becomes Warchief, which seems _extremely_ unlikely, we'll be killing her, too, in an expansion or two.
Moreover, there's a question of whether Sylvanas would even _want_ the position. She seems more content to be a loyal supporter, able to break away if she needs to. She is, however, in a more tenuous position than the Kalimdorian races - the Alliance has their heart set on reclaiming Lordaeron and Hillsbrad, and avenging Gilneas while they're at it.
Regent Lord **Lor'themar Theron** has seen many things in his short rule as de facto leader of the blood elves. Ruling in place of the absent Sunstrider heir is a thankless job. Allying themselves with the Forsaken against the Scourge, the blood elves have proven themselves capable allies of the Horde - and are even working on breaking their addiction to arcane magic, thanks to the rekindling of the Sunwell. He's probably the leader that players are most unfamiliar with, if only because Silvermoon is kind of dusty and forgotten, but he's reportedly going to play an important role in patch 5.1, and he - like everyone else on this list - has made it clear where his loyalties lie.
> Lor'themar inclined his pale blond head in a gesture of respect. "You wish to see me, Warchief?"
> "I do," said Garrosh, steering them off a few steps so that they might speak with more privacy. Malkorok ensured they would not be disturbed by stepping in front of them and folding his massive gray arms. "Out of all the leaders, save Gallywix - who is supportive merely because he sees coins to be made - you are the only one who doesn't question your warchief. Not even when Sylvanas tries to play upon your sympathy. I respect that, elf. Know that your loyalty to me is duly noted."
> "The Horde embraced and supported my people when no one else would," Lor'themar replied. "I will not forget that. And so, my loyalty, and that of my people, is to the Horde."
> Unease stirred in Garrosh as he noticed a slight emphasis on Lor'themar's last word. "I am the Horde's warchief, Lor'themar. And as such, I **am** the Horde."
> "You are its warchief," Lor'themar said, agreeing readily. "Is that all you wish of me? My people are anxious to return home and prepare for the war that is to come."
> "Of course," Garrosh said. "You may go." Lor'themar had said nothing inflammatory, but the unease did not dissipate as Garrosh regarded the sea of red and gold move toward the gates of Orgrimmar. "That one is worth watching," he said to Malkorok.
> "They are **all** worth watching," the Blackrock orc replied.
He's got the experience. He's got the Horde loyalty. He's slated for an important role in Mists of Pandaria. The question really boils down to this: _would the mostly-orcish Horde accept a non-orcish Warchief?_ I have a feeling the answer is _no._ However, I would not be surprised to see more done with Lor'themar Theron. He's stood around putting up with Grand Magister Rommath for far too long.
More importantly, for all intents and purposes, **Gallywix** doesn't exist in-game. At least _Tides of War_ confirmed he's still around, if nothing else.
### Orcish heroes of the Horde
The Horde does have some important orcish figures, of course. Not a lot of them are regularly seen, since they're not Warchief, but we as adventurers interact with them fairly often, and more than a few of them have probable claims to the mantle of Warchief of the Horde. They also get around the sticky question of "would the Horde accept a non-orc?"
**Eitrigg** is an interesting guy. He's probably most like Thrall in his willingness to work with non-orcs; Eitrigg is bound to Tirion Fordring by blood and honor, and worked directly with the Argent Crusade in Zul'Drak. Eitrigg has been around to see a lot of Garrosh's major screw-ups - he personally opened Big G's eyes to the poison Magatha had put on his axe to kill Cairne, and wrote a letter to Thrall informing him of Garrosh's destruction of Theramore. He and his son Ariok are both good and loyal servants of the Horde.
If the game were headed on a path of peace, Eitrigg would be one of the best candidates to enable this. In-game, you can find him outside of Grommash Hold in the Burning Steppes, working to stop the Blackrock orcs from attacking Redridge Mountains. Yet this doesn't seem to be the direction the game is headed. (Interestingly, Eitrigg is another Blackrock orc - but he holds himself to the Horde definition of honor, and is determined to show the Blackrock orcs the error of their ways. Eitrigg is also on my short list of Horde NPCs I expect to see in the Siege of Orgrimmar.)
If anyone were going to be more of a Thrall-type leader than Thrall, it'd be Eitrigg. But let's operate under the assumption that we want someone who can lead the Horde in times of war, but without committing grievous war crimes in the process.
One guy a lot of people would like to see return to the throne of the Horde is **Go'el, son of Durotan,** better known as Thrall. I'll just come right out and say it: this is _extremely_ unlikely. On top of the fact that he'd basically have to clean up Garrosh's mess, which many people blame him for in the first place since _he's_ the one who left Garrosh in charge, Go'el has other duties now - he's going to be a father, and his time in the Earthen Ring has granted him a certain width of perspective.
Plus he's not actually done as a shaman yet. We learn in _Tides of War_ that the world is not quite done trying to rip itself apart - and Garrosh's dark shaman didn't exactly help that any. Go'el will probably show up in Pandaria, but I have a feeling his primary duty from now on is going to be keeping us from accidentally destroying Azeroth in the process of saving it.
Doesn't mean he won't help whip Garrosh's ass, though.
Source: World of Warcraft Trading Card Game
**Varok Saurfang** seems perfectly content to stay in Northrend and have as little to do with Garrosh Hellscream and the Horde as possible. Who can blame him? The odds of him coming back to take up the mantle of Warchief are low, but I think Saurfang is a leader the Horde could unite behind. He embodies the lesson Garrosh _briefly_ absorbed in Northrend, of never forsaking honor.
Really, the only question is whether the old dog still has some epic cleaves left in him. Only Blizzard knows for sure.
### My two top picks
And now we get to the real point of the matter: _what I think._ (I kid.) The two characters presented below are not only likely candidates, but my two personal favorite choices for Warchief in the post-Garrosh era.
**Rexxar, Champion of the Horde** isn't technically an orc - he's a half-orc, half-ogre from the pacifist Mok'Nathal clan on Draenor. However, he was more warlike than they, and he left to journey through the Dark Portal. After the Horde's defeat in the Second War, he went home to Draenor before briefly being stationed with the Warsong Clan during Ner'zhul's hunt for artifacts. Rexxar grew tired of senseless murder and constant betrayals, and after losing his faithful wolf companion to yet another warlock, he declared he would only trust beasts from then on, and left the world to wander Desolace, where he was [incredibly hard to find when you needed him](http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_185473&feature=iv&src_vid=fJoxB4lr_MM&v=IF1jkp7zb6A).
Did I mention that his best friend is a bear, and he's also a pal of Chen Stormstout? He's also helped the Horde out on _numerous_ occasions, saving the Echo Isles from assault by humans, killing naga alongside Jaina, and helping bring the ogres into the Horde fold (although he's not the best judge of character; appointing Overlord Mok'Morokk as leader of the Stonemaul was his doing). Blame all that time in the wilderness.
Rexxar currently hangs out in Blade's Edge Mountains, but more recently he's been seen in Orgrimmar, defending the Valley of Honor during the Elemental Unrest world event. (I bet even most Horde players don't remember _that._)
Warchief Rexxar would open up some interesting possibilities, not the least of them being officially getting Horde allegiance from the ogres, enabling _playable ogres._ Rexxar is sort of the natural successor to Go'el - he's strong, he believes in the Horde maxim of "honor before all," and he has a long history with ties to the Horde. He's never been shown to be a coward or to be self-interested; he's not an orc, but he's a half-orc, and he's defended Orgrimmar itself on several occasions as well as coming to the aid of the non-orc allies of the Horde.
Rexxar is not averse to war, though he does not condone senseless killing - odds are good he would be as sickened by Garrosh's mana bomb plot and Krom'gar's senseless slaughter as anyone else, and maybe it's a good time for him to come roaring back from Outland and kick some asses into gear.
(Useless fact: Rexxar has more health than anyone else in Outland.)
My other choice, and the definite dark horse candidate, would be Warlord Zaela, of the Dragonmaw Clan. Alliance readers are likely wholly unfamiliar with her; Horde players will recognize her from her recurring role in Twilight Highlands. Zaela helps ally the Dragonmaw with the Horde proper, retain a precious artifact used to tame black dragon mounts, mend fences with the Forsaken, and take down the Twilight-allied gronn, Skullcrusher the Mountain.
Zaela brings a lot of interesting things to the table as well. She's already proven a marked ability to spot self-destructive tendencies in leadership, as seen when she helps depose "Warchief" Mor'ghor to bring the Dragonmaw into the Horde. She has no love for demon-blooded fel orcs, although the taming of black dragons using the Demon Chain is an eerie throwback to the Dragonmaw's enslavement of Alexstrasza - but hey, there's only one black dragon now anyway, and he's nobody's slave. (Well, okay, two, but the other one's in Outland.) She's also closely allied with Lady Cozwynn, sent by Sylvanas to "mend fences" after her little spats with Garrosh. So we know she plays well with others.
Despite that, we don't know a lot about Zaela. Like Baine, she's new to leadership. She seems utterly devoted to Garrosh at first, but what would she think about his current schemes? The Dragonmaw would be in an even more precarious position than the Forsaken in the event of Alliance retaliation - Ironforge is within spitting distance of the Twilight Highlands. Presumably she's no fan of honorless killing as well, but do we know that for sure? Maybe all those people shipping Garrosh/Zaela are right.
Zaela would also be an interesting choice because she'd have the opportunity to grow into a strong female character - something the Horde doesn't have a lot of, especially in leadership positions. It'd be an interesting turn to see the entire Horde led by a smart, powerful orc woman, well-versed in honor and orcish ways. Yet I fear that Zaela's just going to linger in the Twilight Highlands forever, forgotten by all but achievement-seekers. Such is the way of an MMO.
Above all, remember this
Whoever is leader has a tremendous responsibility to bear. Not only will they be engaged in a war with the Alliance, they may in the future have to be able to put aside that war to fight a larger foe. The Burning Legion is still out there, not all the Old Gods have been unearthed, and then there's the matter of whatever is buried underneath Tirisfal Glades...
But in a more immediate sense, the Warchief of the Horde is literally liable for the lives of all of his or her people. Remember the Blood Oath of the Horde:
Lok'tar ogar! Victory or death - it is these words that bind me to the Horde. For they are the most sacred and fundamental truths to any warrior of the Horde.
I give my flesh and blood freely to the Warchief. I am the instrument of my Warchief's desire. I am a weapon of my Warchief's command.
From this moment until the end of days I live and die - For the Horde!
Anyone taking that oath understands that their life is bound to their Warchief's command, but the Horde dearly needs a Warchief who understands the weight of those words.
If you read all of this, I'm nominating you for Warchief.
So - who's your personal favorite for Warchief, and why? (And yes, I'll be moderating comments pretty closely. A lot of people get irrationally upset whenever faction stuff is mentioned, and trolling will not be tolerated.)