- For the achievement, see The Fourth War. For the expansion, see World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.
- “...We've made kindling from our suffering - stirred the embers of resentment - just waiting for a single spark to set the whole world aflame. As the Alliance returns to forgotten kingdoms, the Horde seeks the might of an ancient empire. We cannot dream any longer. The time has come to call on allies willing to join the fight; to rally beneath the banners of a world at war.”
The Fourth War (also called the Battle for Azeroth and the Blood War) was a global war fought between the Alliance and Horde after the end of the third invasion of Azeroth by the Burning Legion. After the mad titan Sargeras wounded the world, Azeroth's very life essence started bleeding to the surface in the form of an extraordinary material known as Azerite. Both factions recognized its unique properties, but while King Anduin Wrynn of the Alliance sought it to heal and protect, Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner of the Horde saw it as a weapon and an opportunity to seize. The war was compounded by the rising tide of power from the forces of the Old Gods that eventually resulted in a massive invasion effort by N'Zoth.
The tensions between the two superpowers rose and led to the War of the Thorns, where the Horde destroyed Teldrassil, one of the Alliance's major capitals. In return, the Alliance launched the Siege of Lordaeron, resulting in the ruination of the Undercity. Both factions now seek the destruction of the other in a war spanning the entire world, and recruit new allies to bolster their depleted ranks. The culminating battle of the war was the battle at the Gates of Orgrimmar, which ended in a mak'gora between Varok Saurfang and Sylvanas Windrunner; as the former sought to prevent the severe amounts of Horde deaths that would come from a clash. While Saurfang was killed during the battle, Windrunner's outbursts against the Horde led to her abandoning the faction. Following this battle, a de-escalation was called between the Alliance and Horde; though the war has not fully ended. Several battles were still being fought after the confrontation at the gate.
While the Alliance and Horde are the main belligerents in the war, the promise of the Azerite's power has also brought numerous independent powers into the conflict. These include, but are not limited to, the Ashvane Trading Company, the Venture Company, the black dragonflight, and the Old Gods' forces.
- 1 Prelude
- 2 Beginning of the war
- 3 War Campaigns
- 4 Forces
- 5 In the RPG
- 6 Notes and trivia
- 7 Speculation
- 8 Videos
- 9 References
When the Burning Legion at last made its return, both factions initially worked together, but Varian Wrynn and Vol'jin were killed in action during the disastrous Battle for the Broken Shore. However the Horde's losses were obstructed from the Alliance's view, so to the latter it appeared as if the former were casually abandoning them. King Genn Greymane and Lady Jaina Proudmoore, blaming the Horde for Varian's death, wished to renew hostilities with the Horde. The newly appointed Warchief, Sylvanas Windrunner, became a focus of Greymane's aggression.
Meanwhile, Windrunner sought to strengthen the Horde by scheming of ways to create new Forsaken Val'kyr, so she traveled to Stormheim where the Alliance and Horde forces engaged in battles. Eventually, Sylvanas managed to capture Eyir, but her plans ultimately failed when Genn Greymane tracked her, fought with the Banshee Queen and released Eyir by shattering the Soulcage.
In the midst of all of this, the dreadlord Detheroc impersonated Mathias Shaw and used the SI:7 to sow increasing distrust between the two factions, with the intent of causing a conflict between them. This failed, due to the work of the Uncrowned.
For the remainder of the war against the Legion, the hostilities between the Horde and Alliance ceased, and the night elves and blood elves even put their hostilities aside in order to aid the nightfallen rebellion to liberate Suramar City from Elisande and the Legion. Following the deaths of Gul'dan and Kil'jaeden, Prophet Velen called Alliance and Horde members to Azuremyst Isle in order to travel to Argus. There the Burning Legion was ultimately defeated, but as the Legion's ruler Sargeras faced imprisonment at the hands of his titan brethren, he managed to strike a final blow against Azeroth by stabbing his sword into the world.
Following the Argus Campaign, both the Alliance and Horde converged on the destroyed Silithus, spying and thwarting each other's efforts, as well as engaging in skirmishes on the newly uncovered Seething Shore where they fought to control the first Azerite nodes and ore.
Before the Storm
- Main article: Gathering
Thanks to the efforts of King Anduin Wrynn, the Forsaken of the Desolate Council met with the chosen human relatives and friends from Stormwind in the Gathering in Arathi Highlands. The meeting wasn't about bringing peace between the two factions, but it reunited long-stranded persons and brought a cease-fire for one day. As Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner and Anduin were aware that their factions are not ready for a war, they agreed to the terms of the Gathering and promised they would not harm the other faction's members. The Gathering, however, ended in disaster. Upon seeing the Forsaken trying to defect to the Alliance and being informed of Calia Menethil's presence, Sylvanas ordered her dark rangers to kill her people but spare the humans as to not start a war. Sylvanas would personally kill Calia and threaten to kill Anduin for bringing a usurper to cause sedition, as Calia was calling out for the Forsaken to defect. Anduin, however, called Sylvanas' bluff since she was not prepared to face the unrestrained ire of the Alliance, nor did she have the full support of the Horde. Acknowledging Anduin's words Sylvanas left Arathi, and Anduin would later confide his belief of Sylvanas being lost to Genn.
As the Silithus battles raged on, the Alliance and Horde opened new embassies where the leaders of their respective factions discussed how to prepare against the opposite faction. Following the Legion wars, the Alliance and Horde ranks were depleted so they needed to gain new allies. As such, Lady Liadrin and Baine Bloodhoof recruited the nightborne elves of Suramar, who already distrusted the night elves, and the Highmountain tauren tribes of Highmountain, respectively. Thanks to the efforts of Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner, the Alliance gained new allies in the Lightforged draenei of the Grand Army of the Light and the exiled Thalassian blood elves who became void elves.
As the Alliance and Horde entered the new conflict, Kul Tirans learned about it, and Lord Admiral Katherine Proudmoore remained persistent that they will stay neutral and won't rejoin the Alliance. Jaina Proudmoore, impersonating an old woman and hearing the dialogue, resolved to convince them otherwise.
Beginning of the war
Burning of Teldrassil
- Main article: War of the Thorns
Following the war with the Burning Legion, the Alliance and Horde's navies were diminished. With both factions debilitated in their ability to reinforce Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, the Horde came up with a plan to secure Kalimdor and elicit a political crisis in the Alliance that would lead to its downfall. After luring a majority of the night elven forces to Silithus through misinformation, the Horde would seek to hold Darnassus hostage and use the political crisis to sow division in the Alliance. Furthermore, Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner wanted to kill Malfurion Stormrage in order to kill the kaldorei's spirit and end them as a nation. The invasion of the night elven lands was successful, but High Overlord Saurfang had allowed Malfurion Stormrage to escape alive. News of Malfurion's survival upset Sylvanas and she felt Darnassus' conquering would not be enough of a fatal wound for the Alliance. Thus, Sylvanas had Teldrassil burned down in order to inflict a painful wound on the Alliance that could give the Horde a chance at victory.
Battle for Lordaeron
- Main article: Battle for Lordaeron
The genocide at Teldrassil had rallied the Alliance to seek retribution. The Alliance amassed their armies to take back the Ruins of Lordaeron and bring Sylvanas Windrunner to justice. The Horde had managed to evacuate their citizens but division began to erupt between High Overlord Saurfang and Sylvanas over the Banshee Queen's use of unscrupulous tactics. Despite the Horde's use of Azerite weapons, the Forsaken Blight, and necromancy; the Alliance managed to breach the city and rout the Horde army. The Alliance leadership pursued Sylvanas to the imperial chamber where they demanded her surrender. Sylvanas however, had rigged all of Lordaeron Keep to be blighted and had lured the Alliance leadership into a collapsing imperial chamber as a trap. Although both the Alliance and Horde leadership managed to escape the blast, the Ruins of Lordaeron and the Undercity became saturated with Blight.
Great Sea, Zandalar and Kul Tiras theaters
The Alliance had managed to capture high-value targets of the Zandalar Empire, Princess Talanji, heir to Zandalar and Prophet Zul of the Zanchuli Council, who were imprisoned in Stormwind's Stockades. The Horde had learned of the fact and sent a small group of operatives to rescue the prisoners in hopes of establishing diplomatic relations with the increasingly isolated troll nation, which had a powerful navy at its disposal - an invaluable asset for the Horde's dominance over the seas.
In response to these developments, the Alliance focused on re-establishing friendly relations with another great naval power, the islander human kingdom of Kul Tiras, which was still resentful over Jaina Proudmoore's inaction during the Tirassian Invasion of Durotar which led to Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore's death that promptly pushed the Proudmoore Admiralty to withdraw from the bloc.
Meanwhile, Eitrigg traveled to the alternate Draenor to recruit the Mag'har orc clans that the Horde saved from Garrosh Hellscream's meddling and the Burning Legion's corruption. After Eitrigg and the Horde Speaker helped the Mag'har escape from the Lightbound, the Mag'har decides to make Azeroth their new home. Their leader, Overlord Geya'rah, speaks with Warchief Sylvanas and pledges the Mag'har's loyalty to the Horde.
Battle of Dazar'alor
- Main article: Battle of Dazar'alor (battle)
With the bulk of Rastakhan's forces lured into Nazmir, the Alliance stormed Dazar'alor and slew King Rastakhan. The Alliance wished to sever the Zandalari trolls' ties to the Horde and deal a severe blow to the Horde.
During the course of the war, Bolvar Fordragon commanded the Four Horsemen to acquire fallen champions of both the Horde and Alliance, with Nazgrim personally acquiring bodies from the Battle of Dazar'alor and other Horde lands.
- Main article: Island Expeditions
The Alliance and Horde race to secure the resources and Azerite proliferating in unmapped isles in order to fund their faction's war efforts.
- Main article: Battle for Stromgarde
The Alliance and Horde vie for dominance over the Arathi Highlands, whose strategic location could turn the tide of the war.
Northern Kalimdor theater
- Main article: Battle for Darkshore
Ever since the War of the Thorns, the Horde maintained a firm grip on Darkshore, and the Forsaken have moved into the area. The Alliance intends to launch a counter-attack in order to regain control over the region for the night elves.
- Main article: Faction Assaults
Rise of Azshara
- See also: Nazjatar Campaign
Under Sylvanas' orders, Nathanos Blightcaller used the black blade to guide the Horde fleet and the pursuing Alliance fleet towards Nazjatar where both fleets would be attacked by the naga under Queen Azshara's command after the seas were opened. Led by Jaina Proudmoore and Genn Greymane, the Alliance allied themselves with the Waveblade Ankoan, while the Horde rallied under Lor'themar Theron and First Arcanist Thalyssra and found themselves allying with the Unshackled. Nathanos had, however, departed from the rest of the Horde forces in order to carry out a secret mission.
In time, Lor'themar was informed by Spiritwalker Ussoh that the tauren had received a vision in which Sylvanas ordered Baine's death, causing Lor'themar to declare that they must prevent the vision from coming to pass. Believing that Baine's execution would drive a blade into the very heart of the Horde, he ordered champions to Thrall and Varok Saurfang within the Cleft of Shadow in order to save Baine. While some champions headed directly to meet with their allies, Sylvanas' loyalists were able to secretly rendezvous with Nathanos and inform him of Lor'hemar's actions. In turn, Nathanos ordered them to play along and join the rescue mission. Unbeknownst to the Horde, Alliance spies had also discovered Sylvanas' intentions, and Jaina, recognizing that she owed Baine for returning Derek Proudmoore to her, agreed to Anduin's request to rescue Baine. Thus, she, along with Mathias Shaw and their champions headed off to Orgrimmar.
While venturing through the Underhold, the Horde and Alliance rescue teams discovered one another, and after a brief moment, agreed to work together to save Baine. When things started getting heated between Saurfang and Shaw, Jaina and Thrall were quick to get them focused on the task at hand. Upon nearly reaching Baine, the group was attacked by Rowa Bloodstrike, who expressed disappointment but not surprise by Saurfang's and Thrall's decision to rescue Baine. Unwilling to stand down, the group was forced to kill Rowa and moved forward to Baine, who was surprised by their presence. While Shaw moved to release Baine from his chains, Saurfang remarked that it felt too easy and the group was then attacked by Magister Hathorel, who sought to kill them and Jaina in particular for vengeance for the purge of Dalaran. Ultimately, the group was successful in liberating Baine from his chains, and Jaina teleported the group safely out of Orgrimmar. After ensuring her allies were safe Jaina departed to inform Anduin of the missions sucesss, with Varok telling her that Anduin didn't stand alone.
As a result of this unexpected alliance, the Horde and Alliance forces were directed to focus their attention on Queen Azshara over one another, with Jaina believing that it would buy time for Saurfang's rebellion to take root. In time, the combined Horde and Alliance forces invaded the Eternal Palace, where they ventured deep into the Last Prison, where the queen prepared a ritual to free her benefactor N'Zoth. As Thalyssra, Shandris Feathermoon, and heroes of Azeroth made their descent into the prison, Azshara taunted them with news of Lor'themar and Jaina's fall, but her words proved false: Lor'themar and Jaina, along with Thalyssra, Shandris, and the heroes, fought together to defeat Azshara. After the battle, Lor'themar and Jaina approached the fallen queen with weapons drawn, but the chains binding N'Zoth shattered and the Old God subsequently rescued Azshara. Though triumphant over Azshara, Lor'themar considered it a hollow victory as not only did Azshara survive, but N'Zoth was freed. He also agreed with Jaina's assessment that the Fourth War has kept them distracted and that divided they had no hope against N'Zoth. Thus Lor'themar vowed to tell his people of what transpired in Nazjatar, of how Azshara fell because the Horde and Alliance stood together, and of the rising threat of N'Zoth. Then he vowed to take his place besides Saurfang and Thrall.
Following the events within the Eternal Palace, the Horde split between Varok Saurfang's revolutionaries and the loyalists of Sylvanas Windrunner. Most of the Horde leadership sided with Saurfang, with Overlord Geya'rah and Trade Prince Jastor Gallywix being the only two leaders to side with Sylvanas.
Convening at a dilapidated scout tower, the revolutionaries officially allied with the Alliance against Sylvanas with "For Azeroth" as their rallying cry. Thus to protect Azeroth and depose Sylvanas, the Horde revolutionaries and Alliance planned to strike at Orgrimmar and to that end set up camp in Razor Hill. In response to Sylvanas's forces collapsing part of the canyon between Razor Hill and Orgrimmar, Saurfang turned to Gazlowe and Tinkmaster Overspark to breach the canyon. With his forces established within the Dranosh'ar Blockade, Saurfang turned to dealing with Sylvanas's spies and protecting their siege weapons. Meanwhile Sylvanas and Nathanos had secured Orgrimmar from internal dissident by arresting Eitrigg and burning the propaganda that dissidents within the city had been spreading..
Knowing that Orgrimmar's greatest weakness was its multiple entrances Saurfang's strategy relied on attacking all three entrances at once. To that end, he directed Genn Greymane's forces to attack Orgrimmar from the Northern Barrens, Lor'themar Theron and Shandris Feathermoon to lead their forces to attack the city from Azshara, and he, Thrall, and Anduin would lead their forces to attack Orgrimmar from Durotar. He further ordered Mayla Highmountain to lead her people to protect Thunder Bluff in case Sylvanas launched a counterattack.
However, before the battle could commence, Saurfang, recognizing Sylvanas' loyalists unwilling to spill more Horde blood, challenged Sylvanas to Mak'gora, to which she accepted. During the duel, Saurfang managed to rouse Sylvanas' angry, causing her to let an outburst that showed she had no true loyalty to the Horde. Abandoning the faction, the Horde unified once more and Saurfang was celebrated with a hero's funeral In the months that followed, both the Alliance and Horde were contacted by Wrathion, aiding him, Magni Bronzebeard, MOTHER, and the champions of Azeroth with defeating N'Zoth and ending the threat of the Old God once and for all.
In the aftermath, the Horde entered into an armistice with the Alliance. The Alliance abandoned any holdfasts they had established on Zandalar as a show of good faith. Both groups committed, independently, to the idea of hunting down Sylvanas Windrunner for her crimes. Turalyon was appointed as Lord Commander of the Alliance and was tasked alongside Alleria Windrunner with hunting down Sylvanas.
The armistice was not met with complete faith. On the Alliance, Tyrande Whisperwind refused to sign this pact and distanced herself from the rest of the Alliance leadership, moving to Nordrassil with the other night elves. Genn Greymane also questioned its effectiveness, seeing it as a waste of time that would not stop the Horde from eventually attacking them once again. However, most of the other Alliance leaders, including Jaina Proudmoore, appeared to, at least for the moment, support the armistice, if but only because their own lands and resources were largely depleted. The Horde, with Sylvanas Windrunner gone, refused to name a new warchief. Instead, the Horde Council was formed. With an armistice signed between Anduin Wrynn and the Horde Council, the two factions began to move away from conflict with one another. The council seemed eager to have the war at an end, and numerous new leaders were chosen. With Saurfang dead, Thrall returned to the Horde leadership as the new chieftain of the orcs. Rokhan was chosen to at last take the place of Vol'jin, who had perished against the Burning Legion, as the new Darkspear chieftain. Gazlowe became the new Trade Prince of the Bilgewater Cartel, after Jastor Gallywix deserted the Horde in the wake of Sylvanas' abandonment. Lilian Voss was chosen as the new representative and interim leader of the Forsaken, though she voiced her desire for her people to find a different leader in time.
Hostility continued to exist between the Horde and Alliance in spite of the armistice. Calia Menethil, who aligned herself with the Forsaken after the main conflict had ended, and Lilian Voss were forced to take a longer path from Lordaeron to Orgrimmar; noting that, while there was an armistice, the Alliance naval forces that patrolled the areas would not be friendly to them. Thrall, Calia and Baine Bloodhoof were able to meet with Malfurion Stormrage, Shandris Feathermoon, Maiev Shadowsong, and Tyrande Whisperwind at Mount Hyjal; though the meeting was noted as tense. Yukha, an Earthen Ring shaman who helped organize the meeting, feared that the meeting would erupt into violence, and stated that it was "a mistake" to bring the Horde leaders to Hyjal. Elements of the Alliance also believed that the Horde could be providing Sylvanas refuge in secret, with Tyrande warning Thrall to never seek to speak to her again unless he brought the head of Sylvanas Windrunner.
Horde refugees in the Arathi Highlands were detained by Alliance forces, in particular for information regarding a Sylvanas loyalist. The orc child, Zun, panicked and attacked Turalyon; though he was spared after being quickly disarmed. The Alliance forces interrogated and tortured Zun's mother, Gowzis, using the Void for information on the loyalist dark ranger, Visrynn. The apothecary Cotley was taken prisoner for his information and taken to the Stormwind Stockades, under the premise he would be released after he gave all the information he knew. Mathias Shaw was imprisoned by the Zandalari Empire for trespassing on their territory. This act nearly caused a breach of the ceasefire under Turalyon's orders, though this was prevented by the intervention of Jaina Proudmoore. It was noted by Ji Firepaw that he would not be executed without a trial from the Horde Council, though this sentiment did not please Anduin Wrynn, who wished his spymaster released; a sentiment Thrall promised he would see rectified.
When Sylvanas destroyed the Helm of Domination and the leadership of the Alliance and Horde met at the top of Icecrown Citadel, the two groups nearly came to blows until Bolvar Fordragon interceded.
In the RPG
Brann Bronzebeard concluded that with the events of the invasion of Durotar, Sylvanas Windrunner and her Forsaken allying with the Horde, the Horde's alliance with the Revantusk tribe in the Hinterlands, and with the recent turmoils between the Alliance and Horde, it seemed that the Fourth War may have been on the horizon. This makes the first mention of the term Fourth War, albeit now non-canon, in the Warcraft universe. Years later, the first canon mention of the (hypothetical) Fourth War was with in Legion.
Notes and trivia
- The forces of Azeroth started preparing for a hypothetical Fourth War even before the Argus Campaign started.
- The name "Blood War" is likely in reference to the conflict's focus on Azerite, the blood of Azeroth herself.
- This name for the conflict was originally only used in an exhibition at the Blizzard Museum in Blizzard's headquarters, photos of which were shared online in late 2018. The term "Fourth War" was established with the release of patch 8.2.5 and the finale of the War Campaign in September 2019, and is the only name for the conflict that's used in-game. "Blood War" appears again in Shadows Rising, which was largely written before the release of 8.2.5.
- During the Battle for Azeroth beta, said that Stonetalon was a battlefield between the Horde and the Alliance, as was a Silvermoon warfront, something not seen in the game.
- Fans have been calling segments of the Alliance-Horde war the "Fourth War" for years, with sources varying on whether or not each segment was the start of a full war. Usually, each escalation retconned the previous segment as still part of a tenuous peace.
- The above is not solely the domain of fans. The events of Mists of Pandaria were thematically the "Fourth War" but never called that in the game.
- Fans speculated that Blizzard was keeping the "Fourth War" name for a hypothetical Warcraft IV. This is the first numbered war that does not match the numbering of a respective real-time strategy game.
- Pandaren and allied races death knights have the talent instead of for the older races.
- Many of the formerly neutral characters and factions from the previous expansion apparently either fractured or openly chose sides in the Fourth War. For example, the Order of the Silver Hand fights for the Alliance in the Battle for Stromgarde under Turalyon against Lady Liadrin, her Blood Knights and the tauren Sunwalkers, and the Silver Hand banner remains in Stormwind's paladin training area even after the war's end. Turalyon and Alleria themselves both aligned themselves once more with the Alliance, with Turalyon pledging the Vindicaar and the Army of the Light to its cause, while Thalyssra and Mayla Highmountain did likewise with the nightborne and the Highmountain tauren. The formerly unaligned mechagnomes under Prince Erazmin later pledged their people to the Alliance as well. The surviving wardens under Maiev Shadowsong rejoined their kaldorei kin to take back Darkshore, only to have some of their members slain and raised by the Horde; formerly neutral Cenarion Circle druids such as Thisalee Crow also joined the warfront. Several Nar'thalas Magi from the Court of Farondis, affiliated in-game with Darnassus, also appear in Stormwind's portal room opening a portal to Azsuna. Valeera Sanguinar apparently continued to serve as Anduin's spy and Baine's messenger, retaining a working relationship with fellow Uncrowned associate Mathias Shaw. Lilian Voss and Garona Halforcen were seemingly conscripted by the Horde to fight against the Alliance, Rexxar apparently leaves the Unseen Path to fight for the Horde once again, and both Gazlowe of Ratchet and Thrall himself apparently abandon their nominal neutrality to participate in the war's end as well as the Horde Council. Both Calia Menethil and Derek Proudmoore, despite their associations with the old Alliance and briefly settling in Kul Tiras, apparently join the Horde as well at the conflict's end.
When the armistice was signed, the Alliance ceded control of their holds on Zandalar. Based on this, it is possible that the Horde did the same thing on Kul Tiras. However, the current status of other lands such as Ashenvale and Lordaeron, contested between the two factions during the conflict, remains unclear.
- World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth All Cinematics in Chronological Order (Up to 8.2.5)
- Rise of Azshara Cinematic (Alliance)
- Azshara's Eternal Palace - Raid Finale Cinematic (Spoilers)
- Cinematic: "Safe Haven"
- Crossroads - Cinematic (Spoiler)
- The Negotiation - Cinematic (Spoiler)
- Cinematic: "Reckoning" (Spoiler)
- Battle Azeroth: Varok Saurfang's Mak'gora
- ^ BlizzCon 2019: Q&A panel
- ^ World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth Features Overview
- ^ The Fourth War
- ^ World of Warcraft on Twitter
- ^ Battle for Azeroth™: One Launch to Rule Them All
- ^ a b File:Blizzard Museum - The Blood War.jpg
- ^ a b Shadows Rising, pg. 132
- ^ Before the Storm
- ^ Jaina: Reunion
- ^ We Ride Forth
- ^ of Azshara Now Live – Cinematic (Alliance)
- ^ The Negotiation – Cinematic (Spoiler)
- ^ Reckoning
- ^ Shadows Rising, pg. 161
- ^ Shadows Rising, pg. 80, ebook
- ^ Shadows Rising, chapter 1
- ^ Shadows Rising, chapter 14
- ^ Shadows Rising
- ^ A Chilling Summons
- ^ Horde Player's Guide, pg. 176
- ^ Shadows Rising, chapter 17