People just don’t understand what war actually is. They think war is all about treaties, peace, and being honorable. It’s not. It’s about much more.
The way Sylvanas Windrunner has been written in the Battle for Azeroth expansion has been murky at best. But the evidence of her greatness, whether people want to see it or not, is there for all to see. How Sylvanas has been treated, her past experiences shape her controversial decision-making in war today. Let’s explore.
The Many Tastes of Betrayal
Ever since she regained her freedom from Ner’Zhul, she has been betrayed by those she trusted.
Betrayal by Humans and subsequently, The Alliance. Though the Undead, under Sylvanas’ leadership, did not attempt to join the join the Alliance, they were met with much hostility after they were freed from The Lich King’s control. They were seen as abominations and “untrustworthy” and their lands constantly being encroached on. They were “foresaken” by the living.
Betrayal by Varimathras and Putress. Though Sylvanas and Varimathras were begrudgingly allies, Varimathras recruited Foresaken in Undercity, driving a wedge between Sylvanas and those loyal to her. And at Wrathgate, likely acting on Varimathras’ orders, Apothecary Putress unleashes the blight onto both Horde and Alliance, killing Bolvar Fordragon in the process.
Betrayal by her sister, Vereesa Windrunner. During the trial of Garrosh Hellscream at The Temple of the White Tiger, Vereesa noticed how much her sister, Sylvanas, loathed Garrosh. She set up a meeting with Sylvanas and they plotted to poison Garrosh. But at the last minute, Vereesa chickened out and confessed their plans to Prince Anduin Wrynn.
Betrayal by Godfrey. After committing suicide because he’d rather die than have a worgen for a king (Genn Greymane), Sylvanas had her valkyr resurrect him as one of her Foresaken. Sylvanas commanded him to kidnap Lorna Crowley to hold her for ransom in hopes for a cease fire between the Gilneas Liberation Front and the Forsaken. But Godfrey wanted to kill Lorna and bring her back as a Forsaken to exact revenge on her father, Darius Crowley, one of King Genn Greymane’s right-hand men and leader of the Gilneas Liberation Front. When Darius surrendered to Sylvannas, Godfrey shot and killed her (Sylvanas). Her valkyr were quick to resurrect her.
Reasoning Behind Questionable Actions
While it many will argue that Sylvanas is self-serving, one thing that has remained constant throughout the lore is that Sylvanas is a protector—the protector of the Forsaken. And now, the Horde.
In Edge of Night, Sylvanas threw herself off of the icy cliffs of Icecrown Citadel after the defeat of The Lich King. Lingering in purgatory, she saw a vision of her peoples' future. Without her, then Warchief Garrosh Hellscream would sacrifice the Forsaken, Sylvanas’ people, in a failed assault on Gilneas.
She stood up to Garrosh Hellscream when others couldn’t. And she put fear in him.
At that moment, nobody dared look Sylvanas Windrunner in the eye. Nobody but Garrosh Hellscream.
…there was fear in those eyes, but also something else. Something that terrified even the great warchief. His wolf began to edge away instinctively.
Sylvanas is a brilliant and patient war tactician.
She knows that peace between the Horde and Alliance is always short-lived. Her exchange with High Overlord, Varok Saurfang in A Good War offers the explanation of why she burned The World Tree. People like to think that she threw a tantrum, but this was part of her plan that she mapped out with Saurfang.
“If I dedicated myself to peace with the Alliance, would it last a year?”
“Yes,” Saurfang said curtly.
“How about two years? Five? Ten? Fifty?”
Saurfang felt the trap closing in on him, and he did not like it. “We fought side‐by‐side against the Burning Legion. That creates bonds that are not easily broken.”
“Time breaks every bond.” Sylvanas leaned across the table. Her words flew like arrows. “What do you believe? Will peace last five years or fifty?
Both the Horde and Alliance navies were at minimum capacity. Sylvanas effectively divided the Alliance forces and Horde now controls all of Kalimdor, something that has never been achieved. With the razing of Teldrasil, the Alliance is in a political crisis, orchestrated by Sylvanas.
Sylvanas has never been naive about what the Horde and others think about her, ever since she was turned into the Undead Banshee Queen, no one has trusted her and that’s largely due in part to those who have betrayed her. She has sacrificed herself time and time again for her people, but critics cannot grasp the complexity of her character or decisions. They don’t understand that Warchief Sylvanas is playing the long game to secure the future of the Horde and peace will be on her terms, not Alliance because peace on the Alliance’s terms has always been flimsy and fragile. Horde has needed a leader who will let the Alliance know that Horde isn’t playing the same game they’ve been playing for hundreds of years.
Since Sylvanas predicted the behaviors of the Alliance leaders, what if Saurfang, Baine Bloodhoof, and Lore’thmar’s betrayal were also calculated? What if their betrayals were planned for? It’s not that far-fetched. Remember, Sylvanas and Saurfang had already planted the seeds of "Horde dissent" among the Alliance spies. We know she’s using Mathias Shaw and his spies to play Anduin. What if they played King Anduin, allowing Saurfang to be captured, knowing Anduin would release Saurfang? While it’s highly unlikely that Saurfang was in on it, it’s incredibly likely that Sylvanas planned for their betrayal.
Whatever your thoughts on Sylvanas Windrunner — love her, hate her, or you’re on the fence — the story surrounding her in Battle for Azeroth is far from over. We don’t know what Blizzard has planned for her, but we’re excited nonetheless.