While War Campaign itself has a strong military logic on its own, it also becomes a lot more interesting if you add up the reason behind all this: Sylvanas’ motivation.
Apart from Sylvanas’ fanboy players and in-game loyalists in denial, there can be little argue that her story is strong and consistent throughout several expansions. Battle for Azeroth merely comes as a culmination.
Her life throughout from Warcraft III Frozen Throne and up to Arthas’ final death was determined by her transformation and revenge. Her life purpose back then was putting an arrow through the Lich King’s head, and she lost every sense to live once he was defeated – up to committing suicide. All the way down from the Frozen Throne rto the ground – schloop.
Making a pact with val’kyr, this is Cataclysm when she immediately starts acting in the same vein until the latest cinematics. Cataclysm saw her conquering Lordaeron – claiming as far as Andorhal in the east, Gilneas in the south, and throughout Hillsbrad and Arathi Highlands station to the southeast. This was not a neat conquering – genocide, chemical weapons of mass destruction – to the point that even warmongering Garrosh told her in person that she was freaking insane. Not even the Horde benefit ends justified the means.
She was not seen in Pandaria and Draenor, cause Garrosh saw all but orcs as outcasts during Pandaria (especially the undead!), and the Draenor expedition was far away from home. So she just didn’t have a say in the events.
In Legion though, she gave up at once of what was meant to be a leisure walk and sealing the Tomb. Just as she had to retreat, she immediately stops worrying about the world threat or the Horde, and says: ‘Oh well, now into some more pressing matters’. She behaves as if the Horde or Legion didn’t exist, and travels to bargain with Helya to submit and corrupt the valkyr, in an effort to bolster the ranks of undead. It is interesting how she sees her unexpected warchief position as freedom to do anything she pleases without being bossed around! For now.
Azerite revealing becomes her best present. This is as if she finally saw what opportunities her warchief seat offers! She uses it as an excuse to escalate and start a war… Claiming that Alliance is a threat, and Horde could get their fertile lands if it wins, she pushes both factions into a brutal encounter – but with a mere goal of producing an escalating death toll from both sides.
War of Thorns blitzkrieg was a first try of her ruling might, of pushing the boundaries. The Horde swallowed even the genocide, albeit with an effort. Battle for Lordaeron took it further. The city was successfully evacuated, but what could take few forces on the walls to hold off the Alliance she turned into a proper slaughter. Moreover, she did test the Horde’s loyalty by raising the fallen as undead and mass-murdering both Horde and Alliance with blight, and they swallowed it again.
Wargame in Zandalar ad Kul Tiras went with a moderate success. For what it was worth, she approved every action that could pump the bellows of war, and as I’ve mentioned before, it was a draw during a couple of rounds. She was pleased, as her goal was conflict escalation and growing death toll – until both sides get weakened and get to the grave.
But she’s always been more of a tactician than a strategist. That’s where she lost it: the Alliance was more than capable to plan a strong scheme of spies, guerilla, armies and fleet acting in unison which resulted in a devastating Horde’s defeat. Even then, when Baine voiced the defeat and proposed an immediate truce to save what’s left, she swiped this off. She didn’t have any sound plan (corrupted Derek alone could not turn the tides!), but she wanted the war to rage on.
It was the time when the Horde severely doubted her actions, and turmoils happened, seen as treachery. She felt she was losing it, that factions could forge a peace behind her back and come for her. So she set Ashvane, the one who could teach naga about azerite, free – and went to Azshara with her to arm naga and launch a second wave of all-out war. What remained of the fleets was successfully destroyed by the Nazjatar gambit, and she managed to bump the three factions’ heads, keeping the Horde busy in the war on two fronts instead of forging a coup, and growing overall death toll. At the same time she planned to execute Baine – quietly. What she did not expect is that having a common foe would reduce the faction tension and eventually unite people of Azeroth against her.
Her final effort was a planned siege of Orgrimmar where defenders and attackers could kill each other. Thanks to Saurfang, did not happen – she had to accept the mak’gora challenge, and even if she would easily win, she lost it after an unexpected cut from Shalamayne turning into two swords and her losing temper. She was not really upset about that, as she had already achieved a lot, so she called it uits.
What do we know of Sylvanas now?
Last night, Ogmot dreams of great battle. Two fleets bashin on ocean of blood.
Shadows twistin beneath da ships, risin. Risin. Ogmot so happy watchin da carnage!
Ogmot sees lady wrapped in dark swirlies. She leads herd of blind sheep.
Da sheepies follow her everplace she go. Do everthin she say. Never doubt lady.
She guide dem over tall cliff! SPLAT SPLAT SPLAT! Stupid sheepies!
Da crows get fat eatin da sheepflesh. Da lady laugh as crows eat!
Ogmot laugh too!
- She didn’t care about the Horde, or even the undead.
- She doesn’t side with either Bwonsamdi or Bwonsamdi’s secret boss – they all are not happy with her habit of recycling the dead into the undead, and just in case Bwonsamdi offers Talanji to bring him Sylvanas’ head.
- Lich King is not fond of her, but they may struggle for undead dominance.
- Gorak Tul is too of a local threat to be somewhat significant.
- Helya could be her ally, but she doesn’t command her, or so it seems.
- Her truce with Azshara was pursuing different goals: Azshara wanting to release N’Zoth, and Sylvanas wanting an endless bloodshed. Each of them thought they could use each other.
- Void and Old Gods want to kill her.
- She claims that even N’Zoth will serve death in the end of all.
- She acts and acted on her own, always pursuing her own goals.
- She possesses a dark and unknown magic, and she has certain and unknown number of followers.
Funny enough, even if her intentions to turn Azeroth population into undeath are now clear and explain a lot about the war, we still have questions. She’ll definitely serve as a link to 9.0., the death expansion, and we’re to learn how.
P.S. I don’t know why people so desperately want to see any version of twisted/altered Azeroth – you all would hate to wander in some dark, bleak environment for a couple of years. Same with Emerald Nightmare/Dream. I’d approve dungeons/scenarios, but not the leveling/questing zones. Shadowlands is a hard ‘no’.