As most of us know by now, World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion, Legion, has been announced.
With this new expansion comes AiPT!’s newest article series: Heroes and Villains of Legion. Our first featured character is an icon in the Warcraft franchise (and he’s right there on the cover of the Legion box), the infamous Betrayer: Illidan Stormrage.
Rise of the Betrayer
The former Night Elf’s importance seemed destined from the very start. Illidan was born nearly 10,000 years ago with amber eyes, a birthright that foreshadows a great destiny in Night Elf society. Illidan and his brother Malfurion were raised amongst the teachings of Highborne magic, yet while Malfurion became an embodiment of their race’s druidic teachings, Illidan fell in line with the foundations of sorcery itself. Little did Illidan realize that this study and practice of sorcery would become an obsession later in his life.
As the brothers’ lives continued, they fell into close camaraderie with another Night Elf: Tyrande Whisperwind. Tyrande always stood as the innermost desire of Illidan. The affection he harbored for her even outweighed his lust for power. Yet Illidan’s interest in the Night Elf High Priestess was not reciprocated — he was not to be her lover, but Malfurion, his brother was. This became a fact Illidan would struggle to comprehend throughout his borderline eternal life.
Illidan’s love for Tyrande was unrequited.
Tyrande was but one major cause of Illidan’s descent. Though the High Priestess stood as a major motivation for most of his actions, the magical thirst within him would ultimately be his final undoing. Yet, the insanity that would eventually wrack Illidan was not a trait simply tethered to him — the Betrayer’s fellow brethren developed an all too real thirst for endless magical knowledge. In turn, this magical mania would end up attracting the force that stands as our primary opposition in the upcoming expansion: the Burning Legion.
Garnering the attention of the Legion’s almighty crusade became a nightmare Azeroth hadn’t experienced since the arrival of the Old Gods. The Highborne, Night Elves’ of a more royal and conceited caste, embraced the call of the Legion. Led by the terrifying Queen Azshara and her questionable infatuation with the Legion’s leader, Sargeras, the Highborne gave their arrogance a focus: the annihilation and recreation of society in the image of their beautiful queen and their new, powerful allies. To bring about this vision of decimation, the Highborne and the Legion plotted a potently evil idea: utilize the Well of Eternity as a portal to bring the Dark Titan Sargeras himself to Azeroth’s foothold.
The treachery of Azshara caused a fissure within the Night Elves’ society and in hindsight the Stormrage brothers’ relationship. In response to the Highborne Queen’s actions, Malfurion plotted the Well of Eternity’s destruction. Illidan could not stand for such a choice. The Well of Eternity’s destruction meant Illidan would lose his sorcery and immortality, both coveted items within the Elven culture.
The end of the Well of Eternity marked the end of Illidan’s power as a sorceror, but his rise as a Demon Hunter. Illidan soon came face to face with a vision of Sargeras after finally being driven from his allies’ ranks by a jealousy towards his brother Malfurion and love interest Tyrande. Illidan surprisingly sought to end the Legion by his own means: by obtaining and utilizing the Demon Soul, an artifact of immense power recently forged by the maddened Deathwing, to close the Legion’s planet invasive portal. Sargeras, unknowing of the Night Elf’s personal plans, believed Illidan to be obtaining the Demon Soul for the Legion’s own plans—to strengthen their portal, eventually allow the Dark Titan himself to set foot upon Azeroth, and cleave the planet in two.
Sargeras felt Illidan’s proposed plans for the Demon Soul were deserving of a gift. Following their meeting, Sargeras burned conventional sight from the Night Elf’s eyes forever. His prophecy-bearing amber eyes were replaced with orbs of a mystic green fire that allowed Illidan to see magic of all forms, of all manifestations. By the Dark Titan’s will, the Night Elf’s purple skin then became inscribed with arcanic tattoos that heightened his power. Illidan’s transformation into the Betrayer and the Demon Hunter had begun.
The War of the Ancients
Marred and a visage of his former self, Illidan’s search for the Demon Soul brought him face to face with his brother. Just as Illidan had been searching for the Soul, so too had Malfurion. The Stormrage brothers were at odds, and though Illidan’s personal plans were initially more benevolent than thought, the resentment he felt towards his brother and Tyrande’s sprouting relationship was like poison to his mind. Soon, the Soul ended up in the care of Azshara and the Legion, and became a power conduit for Sargeras’ coming.
Yet, in one final assault, Malfurion, Tyrande, and the other forces of the resistance led a full fledged assault upon the Highborne Palace Zin-Azshari. As Sargeras’ shadow grew darker and darker, rising through the waters of the Well of Eternity, the link between the Legion’s invasive front and Azeroth was shattered. The War of the Ancients was over, but not without its share of casualties and destruction. The Well of Eternity’s broken link from the Legion caused an imposion unlike any other that tore Kalimdor asunder—literally.
Meanwhile, Illidan abandoned the side of all his potential allies for what he deemed a selfless action. Before the Well of Eternity’s implosion, Illidan made sure to gather several vials full of the Well’s magically potent waters. As the world’s recent transformation subsided, Illidan saw opportunity in full. He scaled the massive Mount Hyjal, a towering landmass upon the reaches of a now sundered Kalimdor. The Night Elf’s end goal? The resurrection of the Well of Eternity.
Illidan’s plans would come to fruition, but he would not see the full fruits of his labor for a long 10,000 years. The Betrayer lived up to his namesake with this final betrayl. Illidan’s plans for resurrecting the Well of Eternity did succeed — just as he poured the Well’s chaotic energies into a small, tranquil lake on the peaks of Hyjal, the waters started to churn and transform into something similar to the Well itself.
But this was short lived.
Soon after, Malfurion, Tyrande, and a plethora of other Night Elves came upon Illidan and his machinations. The Night Elves, Malfurion especially, could not believe what they were witnessing. Horror, anger and bewilderment filled all those observing.
Malfurion had Illidan imprisoned here beneath the reaches of Hyjal’s mass for 10,000 years. To Malfurion and most of the Night Elves, Illidan was no longer part of their ilk — he was a puppet to the magic’s enticing nature.
10,000 long years passed and not for a single moment did Illidan see the light of day. He was guarded day and night by the Wardens — specifically Warden Maiev Shadowsong, who had taken up the job of Illidan’s jailer. Yet, this was not the end of the Night Elf’s story. Shockingly, Tyrande of all people one day came to release the fallen Illidan from prison. The High Priestess informed the curious Illidan his freedom was needed to combat an old foe: the Burning Legion had returned.
The other Night Elves, Malfurion included, opposed this decision. Illidan strove to prove to them the demons he had “bargained” with previously had no true hold on him. And so, the fel-tainted Night Elf ventured to the Felwood to destroy the Legion and prove to his brethren his loyalty was not to be questioned.
Here, Illidan and Arthas clashed for the first time. The two were evenly matched and this peaked Illidan’s curiosity. Inquiring why this human had sought him, Arthas informed him of the Skull of Gul’dan. The Skull was apparently the source of the Felwood’s corruption, the exact destruction Illidan wished to halt. Arthas left out one fine detail though: the immense amount of power held within the Skull. Arthas and his master, the Lich King, were well versed with Illidan’s obsessive history with magic. They each knew of the Night Elf’s potential treachery and made sure to simply inform him it was an artifact of corruption.
Illidan vs. Arthas: Round One
All this information did was entice Illidan further. Venturing across the Felwood, Illidan found the Skull and the demonic forces utilizing it. Led by Tichondrius, the Legion’s forces were continuing the carry out their marring of Azeroth. Illidan resolved to end this evil. Through absolute determination and a desire to prove his brethren wrong, Illidan pushed forth and captured the Skull.
What came next was the death of the Night Elf. Power surged within Illidan as he grasped the Skull and ascended to a level of power he had always yearned for. Gone was the Night Elf; the rise of the Demon Hunter had come to full. Illidan’s form turned monstrous, resembling a demon with great flapping wings and horns that tore towards the heavens. With his newfound might, Illidan massacred Tichondrius and his forces.
Illidan returned to the Night Elves, expecting a sort of homecoming for his efforts. His reception was nothing of the sort. Instead, they saw the now former Night Elf’s inner thirst for power had bubbled to the surface and become an affliction across his whole physical figure. Illidan’s transformation did nothing but appall Malfurion and Tyrande further. Realizing the now Demon Hunter’s power driven impulses would never be sated, Malfurion banished Illidan from their sights and forests forever. This victory for Azeroth had caused the rift between the Stormrage brothers to widen even further.
The Betrayer, the Deceiver
The Betrayer was now Illidan’s identity. From this point, much happened to Illidan that culminated in his arrival on Outlands and our eventual confrontation with him upon Black Temple’s peak. Soon after aiding his brethren’s ranks for what he thought would be the last time, the Demon Hunter was contacted by Kil’jaeden, the Deceiver. The deal Illidan would forge with the Deceiver would come to haunt him years after their initial brokering.
Kil’jaeden was more than aware of Illidan’s previously questionable past with the Legion. Regardless, he was willing to offer the Demon Hunter one more chance towards limitless power and greatness. The Deceiver instructed Illidan to destroy the Frozen Throne — the infamous seat of power for the Lich King we are all too familiar with. The Lich King’s imprisoned entity within the Throne was becoming too powerful for the Deceiver’s control and he needed the problem taken care of. Illidan set out on one final mission for absolute greatness.
Illidan’s former jailer and constant pursuer, Maiev Shadowsong.
Illidan’s actions towards reaching the Frozen Throne and bringing about its destruction brought him face to face with his old captor, Maiev Shadowsong. The two clashed at the Tomb of Sargeras. Maiev had chased Illidan as a means to annihilate the Lich King. As the battle between Maiev’s Wardens and Illidan’s allied forces raged on, Illidan gained the means he had required to wipe the Frozen Throne from the face of Azeroth: the Eye of Sargeras.
Maiev found herself outmatched and beckoned the Night Elves of Ashenvale to her aid. With their arrival, the first reunion between the Stormrage brothers and Tyrande came to fruition. It was here that Illidan began to legitimately come to terms with his own selfish tendencies and desires. Tyrande finally informed Illidan of why she had come to choose Malfurion over him: Illidan’s drunkenness for strength and power had twisted him into a shell of his former self; he was a mass of power built on insecurity and an inability to accept oneself. Though the High Priestess’ words did not sway Illidan’s actions, they did have a resounding effect on his mind. Illidan had finally come to terms with his own enraged feelings towards Malfurion and Tyrande’s union.
Illidan started to utilize the the Eye of Sargeras to tear the Frozen Throne apart. He was interrupted by Maiev and her brother. As Illidan clashed with the two, Malfurion’s rage hit a boiling point as he claimed Tyrande, according to Maiev, had recently been killed by hordes of the Lich King’s undead Scourge. Distraught, Illidan showed legitimate heartbreak at the news. However according to Kael’thas, a Blood Elf that had just recently come into alliance with the Night Elves, this was apparently not the case. Tyrande had not been killed, but merely surrounded and thrust into a situation where she needed rescuing. While Maiev fell under arrest for her lies forged in pursuit of the Demon Hunter, Illidan and his allies made Tyrande’s rescue their top priority.
Swathing through hordes of undead, Illidan came to the High Priestess’ rescue, much to her own shock. Even more-so, the former Night Elf delivered Tyrande to Malfurion unharmed and safe. The two were absolutely surprised by Illidan’s service to them even after everything the former trio had gone through. It was here Malfurion and Illidan ended their conflict. The Betrayer promised to never come into conflict with the Night Elves again.
Illidan vs. the Frozen Throne
Illidan’s failure to destroy the Lich King was not something he took lightly. The Demon Hunter knew that Kil’jaeden would be looking for him and acted accordingly. Illidan took flight to Outland — the husk of what we once knew to be Draenor. Yet, it was not just Kil’jaeden that pursued the Betrayer — Maiev, too, free of her shackles, led her Wardens in a mission of redemption to capture Illidan once more. Their chase of the Betrayer ended with his very short capture. Just when the Wardens had thought to have imprisoned the Demon Hunter, his new allies in the form of Kael’thas and the Lady Vashj-led Naga, freed him from their grasp. In a twist of fate, they imprisoned Maiev and the rest of the jailers themselves. From here, Illidan went on a purge of Outland to free it from demonic influence, especially Kil’jaeden’s vision and grasp.
At the culmination of this effort, Illidan stood as the master of the Black Temple. Thinking himself free of Kil’jaeden’s gaze, the Betrayer started to unify Outland’s forces under a new banner: his. But this was not enough to ward off the Deceiver. In a mighty show of smoke and fire, Kil’jaeden manifested himself upon the peak of the Black Temple. The Deceiver announced to Illidan that no matter how hard he tried he could not escape his wrath. Illidan countered the Deceiver’s touts of torture with a proclamation that he had simply been gathering his forces for a full fledged assault on the Frozen Throne.
Kil’jaeden took this statement favorably and gave Illidan one final chance. At this point, Illidan and his forces rushed back to Azeroth. Oddly enough, they found themselves in a race against time. As Illidan had been dealing with more personal matters and a failed attempt at destroying the Frozen Throne, the Lich King himself had reached out to Arthas, the Death Knight Illidan had clashed with not too long ago. The Lich King strove to be free of his frozen confines and Arthas, with the Lich King’s soul-reaping weapon Frostmourne in hand sought to bring this dream of his master to fruition.
As Illidan and Arthas’ forces battle each other across Northrend, the Frozen Throne’s location, the two finally came face to face again. This time, their conflict was much different than the last. Though initially evenly matched, Arthas struck down Illidan and left him wounded in the snows of Icecrown. The soon-to-be physical Lich King ascended the Frozen Throne as Illidan laid in failure. Vashj and Kael’thas gathered their forces and rescued Illidan. Their task had failed, and Kil’jaeden’s horrific wrath was imminent.
The Betrayer’s Fall
Now that all this hefty history has been covered and recapped, we can focus on Illidan’s actual involvement in-game. In the last 10 years, several expansions have been released for World of Warcraft. The game’s first expansion though, the Burning Crusade, stood as Illidan’s supposed time to shine.
The Betrayer was featured as the expansion’s titular foe– the absolute enemy everyone strove to defeat in the game’s final content patch. After his defeat at the Frozen Throne, Illidan fled to Outland. The madness that had always been alluded to exist within him started to froth forth like never before. The Betrayer proclaimed that he had defeated Arthas in single combat, though this was not the case, and even declared himself the titular Ruler of Outland.
Illidan at Black Temple.
Our conflict with Illidan culminated at the Black Temple. After coming to find out Maiev Shadowsong was still imprisoned by Illidan on Draenor, our heroes came to free her. Gathering many other allies, the Betrayer became the Betrayed by his own forces. Yet, when the conflict finally came at the peaks of the Black Temple, the Demon Hunter was not surprised. It was as if Illidan himself had seen his end coming for a long, long time.
With Maiev and other allies’ aid, Illidan was slain. In his last words, Illidan made sure to let his constant pursuer know she would be nothing without her hunt.
And the Betrayer was not wrong.
Until recent years, we had no idea what happened to Illidan’s body after we slew him. Legion’s unveiling and announcement has given us the answer we strove for with this specific question, but in the process, raised so many more.
In the upcoming expansion Illidan will have an apparently “crucial” role in its development. Before Legion’s actual unveiling, we were given a cinematic teaser that showed Gul’dan, who had been MIA after the events of Hellfire Citadel, somewhere submerged in absolute darkness. Among a plume of Fel energy here and there, suddenly we were given a very distinct silhouette of Illidan encased in crystal. Soon after the Warlock’s toiling, the Demon Hunter’s arcanic tattoos started to surge. Life was returning to the Betrayer.
Illidan and the Skull of Gul’dan
But why? What role would Illidan play in Gul’dan’s machinations, especially when he himself completely opposes the Legion and demons themselves?
According to Legion’s website, after Illidan’s death his body was taken by Maiev Shadowsong. What Maiev did with Illidan’s body was something no one had expected: imprisonment within the Vault of Wardens. The Vault of Wardens, as the description for the official site goes, is the total confinement of whosoever is entered into its ranks. Not only is the subject physically chained to this locality — their soul is too.
Keeping this in mind, Gul’dan arrives here for whatever reason to free Illidan. As the description for the expansion goes, Gul’dan has been sent to Illidan’s prison and Azeroth to usher in a demonic invasion that Azeroth has never witnessed before. This invasion is supposed to end with the obliteration of our world — not by Gul’dan’s hand but by Sargeras’ himself.
The fact that Illidan is so crucial to the Legion’s plans is rather bewildering, but I have my own theory as to why the Demon Hunter is so vital to their machinations: Illidan is the key to summoning Sargeras to Azeroth. Considering Sargeras needs some form of powerful and massive magic to summon him, it’d have to be something comparable to the Well of Eternity.
It’s quite possible that in the years since Illidan absorbed some of Sargeras’ power he became a direct conduit and link to the Dark Titan. With how powerful Illidan has become over the years, between being blessed by Sargeras himself and absorbing the magic within the Skull of Gul’dan, it could come as no surprise that his body could act as an actual power source. Futhermore, the site for Legion itself states that Gul’dan and the Burning Legion’s forces have already located the key to Sargeras’ return. Considering the absolute focus on pointing out Illidan’s important with this next expansion, a logical conclusion could be drawn that Illidan IS that key.
Could Illidan be the key to summoning Sargeras to Azeroth?
Yet, aside from becoming a literal battery for the Legion’s plans, Illidan’s freedom and the actions that would come with it could be what the Legion is counting on for Sargeras’ freedom and an actual full-fledged invasion. Perhaps, since the Legion more than likely knows of Gul’dan’s eventual fate, they secretly require him to take Gul’dan’s head himself and in turn forge a new Skull of Gul’dan that is brimming with terrifying power.
But aside from this, Blizzard has openly stated they wish to redeem Illidan and bring him back. Considering Illidan’s colorful history throughout the Warcraft saga, he isn’t an inherently bad person. Illidan has always had a massive drive for something greater, almost as if he’s constantly feeling the weight of an important destiny at all times. If Illidan is acting as the key to the Burning Legion’s plans and Blizzard has been wanting to offer the Demon Hunter’s character redemption, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that he will play a vital role, if not the most vital role, in the upcoming expansion. Illidan’s redemption may finally be at hand—and the fate of all depends on the choices the Demon Hunter makes with his recent resurrection.
Presently, all we can do is speculate based on what we know with the story. But, aside from that, we hope you’ve enjoyed this lengthy and in-depth analysis of Illidan’s history and character!
This concludes the first of our Characters of Legion spotlight! Join us next segment as we spotlight the Nightmare Lord himself: Xavius.
Until next time!