Blizzard Blue Zarhym recently revealed that at some point in the future, Theramore will be destroyed by the Horde, a shocking and intriguing revelation that is sure to have huge ramifications. The announcement has been controversial, and many Alliance players are unhappy or downright furious about the news. However, I think this is going to be the catalyst, the spark the re-ignites the Alliance flame that's been somewhat dwindled as of late.
The initial reaction to the news was a flood of resentment from Alliance players, upset to lose yet another beloved city, and outraged at the evil, vile Horde for destroying poor innocent Theramore for no reason at all. This is actually quite the sticky topic, because it's much more complicated than it appears on the surface.
Remember, it was Theramore - not Varian, not Tyrande, not the ALLIANCE - but Theramore who burned and razed Camp Taurajo to the ground. So for the Horde to strike back at Theramore actually makes perfect sense, tit-for-tat, avenging their fallen kin, etc. Have you talked to the survivors in Southern Barrens? These are no longer the peaceful nomads that once lived at Camp Taurajo as simple hunters - these Tauren are MAD.
Secondly, many players equate the destruction of Camp T with the destruction of Astranaar, the Night Elf settlement in Ashenvale. I don't agree with this sentiment, for a few reasons. For one thing, the Orcs and Night Elves have been battling over Ashenvale for years. One side striking at the other is, at this point, completely natural and even expected. I mean hell, the Night Elves are actively besieging the Horde's Splintertree Post in current game-time.
The constant battles in Ashenvale are certainly sad, but they are nowhere near the sucker punch feel of Theramore destroying Camp Taurajo, who have NEVER been involved in faction squabbles or disputes. It's basically comparing the assault of a military outpost to the bombing of a bus full of civilians. It's not the same.
Furthermore, the amount of destruction is laughably different. In Ashenvale, the Horde are attacking Astranaar, and the Night Elves (and Alliance players) are fighting them off. The city is intact, the NPCs are still there hanging out, and everything is still fine, it's just that the roofs are on fire and Horde wind riders are flying around overhead. It's an ongoing battle in which Alliance players can make a difference and help the Night Elves defend their town.
But Camp Taurajo? There is no battle. There is no defense. The outpost is dead, being picked clean by scavengers. Human scavengers. Horde players find corpses of familiar Tauren NPCs, including some heartbreaking ghost memories of Tauren civilians being butchered by Theramore soldiers. One ghost's last memory is bravely telling his companions to run, while he tried to hold off the attackers with a skinning knife. A skinning knife!
The attack on Astranaar was an attack that burned the Night Elves' buildings and war machines, but the Theramore attack on Camp Taurajo was a massacre. And why? To build a road, apparently.
Now, Alliance players could say, okay, maybe not Astranaar, but what about Southshore! And in this, they would be correct. The Forsaken DID destroy Southshore, and destroy it but good. Which leads into another hot topic about Theramore's impending demise - the supposed favoritism Blizzard shows the Horde.
In a lot of ways, this is a valid complaint. In Cataclysm, the Horde HAS achieved more military victories than the Alliance. Southshore, Gilneas, Andorhol, Astranaar...all have been under attack or taken over by Horde forces, while the Alliance really has only the dubious achievement of butchering Camp Taurajo. And of course, there is the heavy story focus on Thrall, even though he is supposed to be a neutral figure now.
Alliance players might also point out that they have suffered greatly with the loss of Darkshore, which is a particularly devastating zone to quest through. While this is true, I wouldn't agree that this is "Horde bias" - just like the Alliance has lost Darkshore to natural disaster, so too have the Horde lost Freewind Post in Thousand Needles to massive flooding and the Grimtotem. (It is interesting to note that in both Horde losses I have described so far, it is the Tauren who have suffered.)
However, while it's true that the Horde seems to be "winning" so far, to say it's unfair and biased is silly. The story isn't finished yet. This is but one swing of the war, and to judge things before they have resolved is absurd. As Blizzard pointed out at Blizzcon, the Horde has made military conquests, yes, but at what cost? The Horde leadership is extremely strained, and is close to breaking. Garrosh is on poor terms with Sylvanas, Vol'jin AND Baine, and Lor'Themar and Gallywix are all but non-existent. And none of those leaders have really shown any great friendship/fondness for one another (though I imagine there might be some allegiances between Vol'jin/Baine and Sylvanas/Lor'themar).
In contrast, the Alliance leadership is rock solid right now. As we saw in Wolfheart, every Alliance faction and their leaders get along well with one another, with the exception of the Dark Irons. But since they are part of a tripartite leadership, and the other 2 thirds get along great with the other races, this is more of a nuisance than any real problem. Varian himself is going through massive growth and shedding the brash immaturity he displayed in Wrath, and Blizzard said that there would be a quest line in the future where Varian undertakes a series of trials (much like Hercules) to prove himself to the other races of the Alliance, and show them that he's worthy of being their king.
In fact, when Varian does undergo these trials and becomes the Alliance figurehead, it will be the culmination of an interesting change in leadership dichotomies. Before Garrosh became Warchief, the Horde had always been a tight-knit group of ragged survivors whose strength came largely from their unity. On the other hand, the Alliance had never enjoyed this sense of community, since the various nations were relatively independent and self-sufficient. But now these trends have changed, and it is the Alliance who are banded together in solidarity while the Horde splinters more and more with each passing day.
If you consider these factors, which side is really in the better position? The Horde has some powerful players, yes, but if they can't work together and operate as a team, they'll be no match for the Alliance's unified front. Now add in the fact that Garrosh has NOT shown the same kind of personal growth that Varian has been experiencing, and the fact that Sylvanas seems poised to go completely crazy and become the new Lich Queen, and ask yourself - which side is REALLY better off right now?
I'm excited about this prospect. The Horde has gotten a little too complacent lately, too confident and bold in their actions. One of the appealing elements of being Horde is the whole fighting-for-survival, underdog feeling...but this only works when you're actually the underdog! Being put back on their toes and losing territory, being forced to really scrape and claw for survival - it's going to be a blast.
Alliance players should be equally excited, for this is their moment of glory! It's true that there's been some moments in Wrath and Cataclysm that have been hard to stomach, and it's seemed unfair at times. But this is all going to change. The hand of the Alliance is all posed to give the Horde a bloody nose, and foolish, brash Garrosh is about to learn the hard way what happens when you piss off everyone.
Now, politics aside, the destruction of Theramore is fascinating on a number of levels. From a Horde military standpoint, it's a very tempting target, being the sole Alliance stronghold in central Kalimdor, as well as the ONLY Alliance port on the eastern Kalimdor coast. It has long been a pain for the Horde, with both the Barrens and Durotar suffering under Theramore military attacks in the past. Eliminating Theramore would make it nearly impossible for the Alliance to produce any sort of ground support for between their forces in Ashenvale/Darkshore and Feathermoon Stronghold, way down south in Feralas. And of course, there's the whole "avenging Camp Taurajo" motivation.
On the flip side, what would the Horde truly gain? Despite its excellent location, Theramore hasn't ever been a major supply depot for the Alliance - it's not like the Crossroads has been fighting off Alliance assaults pouring out of Dustwallow or anything. And even if Ironforge or Stormwind were to send over an army to assist Kalimdor's Alliance forces, Dustwallow is pretty isolated right now, and these troops would have to march up through the Barrens and through the Horde's Mor'shan Rampart to reinforce Ashenvale, or somehow navigate the flooded valley that is now Thousand Needles to get to Feralas. In either case, it would be a struggle, and transporting heavy tanks or siege machines would be extremely difficult, if not downright impossible.
This does raise the interesting issue of naval support. The Alliance, whose transportation system revolves around ships, has some pretty awful harbor locations. Theramore is the only Alliance port on Kalimdor's eastern shore able to receive ships from Ironforge, Stormwind or Menethil Harbor. (Menethil is flooded but it's still Alliance-controlled, and could be salvaged.)
Meanwhile, the Alliance strongholds on Kalimdor's west side - Feathermoon Stronghold, Darnassus, the Exodar, and Darkshore - have almost zero naval support, since the only Alliance port on the Eastern Kingdom's east coast is Highbank in Twilight Highlands. (This is of course assuming that Azeroth is round.) Furthermore, reinforcements sent overseas through Highbank would be limited to infantry and ground forces, since it would be all but impossible to transport siege engines and heavy war machines from Ironforge and Stormwind up into and through the rocky and contested Highlands.
The Horde, however, have a number of ports on the eastern shoreline, in the Hinterlands, Twilight Highlands, Badlands and Swamp of Sorrows.
If I were the Alliance, I'd move to conquer Swamp of Sorrows and build a major shipyard on its coast. The region is close to Stormwind and there are no Horde outposts along the way, so reinforcements (including tanks and siege engines) could be transported quickly and without obstruction, and sent overseas to Feathermoon or Darnassus. Furthermore, troops from Ironforge (and tanks) could be sent the short distance north to Menethil, then shipped down to Stormwind for redeployment.
Speaking of southern Eastern Kingdoms, I pointed out how lone and isolated Theramore is, all by itself in the middle of Kalimdor. Well, so are Grom'gol and Stonard for the Horde! These two tiny outposts are both just a stone's throw away from Stormwind. Logically, Varian should probably stomp out these small camps and lock down the south for the Alliance, to ensure that the road to the harbor in Swamp of Sorrows remains unmolested, and to remove the only semi-significant Horde outpost south of Stormwind.
Anyway. Naval logistics aside, Theramore is beloved by the Alliance, as is its leader Jaina, and attacking either would undoubtedly enrage the Alliance. It could very well be the catalyst that finally, truly unites the traditionally-independent Alliance factions, by giving them a cause - a martyr, really - to fight for. This is what a Horde advisor, perhaps Eitrigg, would point out, but we all know Garrosh doesn't really consider any advice but his own, which in this case could be a fatal mistake.
Speaking of Jaina, what's her take on this? She's always been neutral when it comes to war, to the point of turning on Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, her own father, to prevent pointless deaths. At least, she was. She hasn't been seen in Cataclysm (with the doesn't-really-count exception of being there at Thrall and Aggra's wedding), but Theramore DID go destroy Camp Taurajo. Has she had a change of heart? Or is someone else pulling the strings there now?
Jaina does have a brother, Tandred Proudmoore, who is charge of the island nation of Kul Tiras. Is he like Jaina, or their father? Maybe after arriving in Theramore, Tandred is horrified to find out what Jaina did to dear old dad, and seizes command? I'm not saying Jaina would be too weak to retain control - she's obviously very, very strong - but I wouldn't be surprised if she simply couldn't bring herself to fight her brother. Not to mention that many of Theramore's residents probably still have very close bonds and loyalties to Kul Tiras.
Even without her brother or Kul Tiras, Jaina might be having second thoughts about remaining neutral, what with Thrall no longer Warchief and after hearing about all the nasty things Garrosh has been doing, and considering her city is alone in hostile territory. Would she order Camp Taurajo burned? Probably not, but her orders might have been misconstrued, the soldiers may have been overzealous, or hey, maybe there's even been a coup in Theramore, with concerned/scared citizens deciding that no, they really AREN'T comfortable with the Horde right on the doorsteps. Many, many possibilities.
In any case, the Horde attacking Theramore could (and should!) mean big things for Jaina. She's always been the calm, peaceful one, but that's before her home was attacked. Now, it wouldn't be really unprovoked - any sane leader would realize, okay, this is PROBABLY in retaliation because we slaughtered Camp Taurajo - but maybe something about the attack really pisses her off. Maybe Garrosh uses dirty tactics, maybe it has to do with her brother, or you know what? Maybe she's pissed at the Alliance for not being there to help Theramore when they needed it, after they built them that damn road and dirtied their hands with that unpleasant Taurajo business. There's a lot of options here, but as long as they end up with Jaina mad and burning things, I'll be happy.
Also, Garrosh needs to learn humility if he's going to grow, and what would humble him more than a crushing defeat at Jaina's hands? Garrosh probably has zero respect for Jaina, because she's small and weak (physically), she's always been focused on peace every time they've met, and of course, she's a human. In fact, while Garrosh at least respects Varian as a warrior, he probably sees Jaina as just Varian's aide or lackey. Every time she and Garrosh have crossed paths - the Ulduar trailer, the Argent Tournament - Varian has very clearly been the one in charge. A solid ass-kicking by Jaina would be awesome on so many levels - it'd be extremely satisfying to Alliance players and people who love Jaina, and it might finally instill some common sense into Garrosh's thick skull.
(It would also be really nice to have another strong, decidedly dominant female character! Sylvanas for the Horde, Jaina for the Alliance.)
A lot of people have also been making a big deal about Thrall, wondering what he will think about this whole mess. He is, after all, friends with Jaina, and he's not thrilled at Garrosh's leadership so far. Will this incident make him step in and take back the reins?
Well, I hope not. Theramore's destruction really has nothing to do with him, and he has his own Big Important Things to deal with. And while he is close friends with Jaina, do you honestly think that's more important than finding out the people at Camp Taurajo - his former people, and probably friends or acquaintances! - were murdered? Not even close.
Contrary to what players want, Thrall will NOT find out about Theramore's destruction and be so aghast he returns to take over as Warchief. Thrall might be saddened, and feel really bad for Jaina, and even be angry at Garrosh initially...but make no mistakes, he would never condemn Garrosh for standing up for the Horde and avenging their fallen brothers and sisters. Hell, even if Thrall was still Warchief he'd still strike back at Theramore, despite his friendship with Jaina. It would be his responsibility as leader of the Horde, and his responsibility to his people. We saw him clash with Jaina about this exact type of issue in the Shattering novel, over the Orc attacks in Ashenvale. Jaina was shocked that Thrall didn't hand over the Orc attackers into Alliance custody, but remember, Thrall is a nice guy, but his #1 loyalty (as Warchief) is to his people. And if the survivors of Camp Taurajo are crying out for blood and demanding justice for what Theramore did, Thrall wouldn't have any choice.
Furthermore, what would Thrall coming back right now really achieve? It would look silly on Blizzard's part, to essentially be ret-conning Thrall's abdication so soon after it happened. It would basically be admitting "yeah, we screwed up, here's Thrall back on the throne." It would also be really wasteful. The successful return of a big hero type figure can have awesome dramatic effect, but only when the person's absence has been truly missed. And while there's complaints about Garrosh, from a Horde perspective, things are going great! They're strong, they're seizing territory back from the Alliance, and things are good.
No, I don't think we'll see Thrall return until much later, after the ramifications of Theramore's destruction have been fully played out and felt. When the Horde has been beaten back, and is splintered, bickering, desperate and on the verge of collapse. THAT is when a huge return by Thrall would have the most effect, as the son of Durotan steps in and - once again - unites the fractured shambles of the once-mighty Horde into a unified, cohesive faction.
So how will all this end up with shipwrecked Horde and Alliance forces landing on Pandaria's shores? Well, we know the faction battle will be taken to the seas, and I think the connection here is obvious - Kul Tiras.
This island nation has always been renowned for its fleets and naval superiority, and Theramore's destruction/involvement is the PERFECT tie-in, considering Jaina's roots and the fact that her brother Tandred is Kul Tiras' Lord Admiral.
Furthermore, the only existing Kul Tiras characters or NPCs to appear so far in-game were soldiers manning Tiragarde Keep, a small keep in southern Durotar. Formerly led by Daelin Proudmoore and fiercely opposed to the Orcs, Tiragarde's militia clashed with Horde forces from Razor Hill for years.
Tragically, Tiragarde was destroyed in the Shattering as the ocean erupted, shattering the keep walls and drowning all within. But will Tandred really believe that his soldiers were killed by a natural disaster and not their hated green-skinned neighbors, who remain nearby, seemingly unharmed?
(Kul Tiras also originally controlled the island prison of Tol Barad, but the island is now overrun with undead and unaligned rebel forces, and no one knows for certain what happened to the Kul Tirans.)
I think the Horde is going to find themselves very surprised and off-balance at the sudden appearance of these new foes, especially considering the soldiers of Kul Tiras are pretty much the most badass group of sailors in existence. Maybe Horde players are sent by Garrosh to assault Kul Tiras itself to wipe out this threat, and maybe Alliance players are sent to counter this assault. The subsequent naval battle in uncharted waters (remember, we don't actually know where Kul Tiras is now, post-Shattering) could easily end up with us washing up on a strange, never before-seen island...Pandaria.
Theramore is a popular little place, and it's definitely understandable why Alliance players were upset to hear its days were numbered. But it is exactly this loyalty and sense of outrage that will make its destruction such an important event, one that will mark the beginning of a new chapter in WoW's awesome, ever-evolving story.