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This article is about the living dead in general. For the playable race of undead, see Undead (playable) or Forsaken. For the Lich King's faction, see Scourge.
Undead creatures

The undead are beings that have died and have had their souls trapped between life and death. They derive power from necromantic magic.[1] Most common examples being zombies or ghosts, undead are typically mindless, bloodthirsty fiends hostile toward any living thing that comes across their path.


The undead have appeared all throughout Azeroth, most commonly in nature as revenants[citation needed] or wraiths. They were used as a combat tool during the First War when the necrolytes of the Horde animated skeletal warriors to fight against the humans. During the Second War, the essence of those necrolytes was used to power the Horde's death knights during their creation.

Later, the studies of the necrolytes developed into necromancy,[citation needed] the form of magic used heavily in the Third War when the Cult of the Damned spread the plague across Lordaeron. In modern times, the two main groups of undead are the Scourge and the Forsaken.

Nature of undeath

The CM Nyorloth supplied information on the nature of undeath on February 9th, 2012 on the European Story Forums, stating:

Death Knights and souls? | 2012-09-02 00:00 | Nyorloth
The souls of the undead (Forsaken, PC death knights, ghouls, etc.) are imperfectly attached to their bodies; the dark magic that sustains them is a buffer that prevents their souls from properly joining with their bodies. This is why undead feel only faint sensations of pain or discomfort from most physical stimuli, and why the Light is so painful to their existence. The primary exception to this rule are liches, as liches bind their souls to a phylactery and then use the phylactery to generate a physical form; this process is why lich bodies look nothing like their mortal bodies, and also why you have to destroy a lich’s phylactery to truly kill them.

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Aside from their affliction, most undead also suffer from an addiction to terrible vices that the Lich King instilled in them in order to produce vile and inhumane monstrosities. Death knights, for example, possess an addiction to inflicting pain. If death knights do not regularly inflict agony upon another creature, they begin to suffer wracking pains that could drive them into a mindless, blood-seeking hysteria.[2] Zombies and Forsaken have a hungering for living flesh[3][4] and darkfallen have been known to consume blood.[5]

Generally, most enslaved undead are tormented and restless by their subjugation. Some welcome it if it grants them the benefits of eternal life. Many undead who are sentient enough to understand their circumstances appear emotionally stoic yet passive if not melancholy. The most known emotions that the undead seem to emote are remorse, pity,[6] or rage.[7]

Record of undead emoting positive emotions are rare, though there are reports, however, that some Forsaken have slowly experienced a sharpening of their dulled senses of touch, smell, and so on, as well as an increase in the flashes of positive emotions that have otherwise become so rare since their fall into undeath, when influenced by the Holy Light. The drawback however, is that they also become disgusted with themselves and are likely to increase attempts at their own self-destruction; for regaining these senses would force the undead to smell their own rotting flesh, taste the decay in their mouths and throats, and even feel the maggots burrowing within their bodies.[8]

Some of those that freed themselves from the Lich King's grasp are tormented by memories of the unspeakable horrors that they committed as mindless Scourge agents and are driven into madness or consumed by regret, whereas others embrace their new condition and may go on to indulge in their vile vices.

Characteristics in World of Warcraft

WoW Icon 16x16.png This section concerns content exclusive to World of Warcraft.
  • Cannot be skinned, except for certain undead animals that would otherwise be classified as beasts (i.e.: bears, boars, wolves, etc).
  • Generally are unaffected by mind affecting spells, like [Fear], sleep or mind control, however, priests can use [Shackle Undead] to temporarily imprison monsters and paladins can use [Turn Evil] which works just like a fearing spell. This does not apply to player characters of the undead race, which are technically classified as humanoid, for purposes of game-balance.
  • Can be tracked by Hunters.
  • Death Knights under the effect of [Lichborne] are considered undead.
  • Death Coil (death knight ability) can heal them, assuming they are of friendly allegiance to the death knight.

Types of undead


Corporeal undead are average corpses or body parts reanimated by the plague or necromancers, or are various body parts stitched together into abominations.


Incorporeal undead are ghosts and spirits of the dead.


Skeletal undead are skeletons animated by magic.

Undead factions

Faction Leader Description Capital Status
The Not-Living IconSmall Galakrond.gif Galakrond A group of undead proto-dragons created after being cannibalized by Galakrond. They served as his main army against the other proto-dragons, and they were the first undead threat that Azeroth ever faced. The not-living were ultimately destroyed during the future Aspects' final battle against Galakrond. Northrend Destroyed
The Scourge IconSmall NewLichKing.gif The Lich King Originally created by the Kil'jaeden to help usher the Burning Legion into Azeroth, it went rogue after the Battle of Mount Hyjal and waged a war to destroy all life on Azeroth. Icecrown Citadel Inactive
The Forsaken IconSmall Sylvanas.gif Sylvanas Windrunner A breakaway group from the Scourge formed after they retook the Capital City of Lordaeron, they swore revenge against the Lich King and joined the Horde in an alliance of convenience. Undercity Active
Cult of the Damned IconSmall Arugal.gif Darkmaster Gandling A cult that seeks to obtain immorality through undeath. They served the Scourge while Arthas Menethil was the Lich King, and since his demise have struggled to hold their claims in the Plaguelands from encroaching Alliance, Horde, and Argent Crusade forces. Scholomance Active
Rotbrain Undead IconSmall Undead Male.gif Marcus Redpath A breakaway group from the Forsaken, raised by the val'kyr and united by their refusal to join Forsaken society. The group was ultimately destroyed in its infancy by Forsaken adventurers. Rotbrain Encampment Disbanded
Risen IconSmall Nathrezim.gif Balnazzar Created by Balnazzar by kiling Scarlet Crusaders and raising them into undeath with the intention of using them to take conquer the Plaguelands for the Burning Legion. Ultimately they were stopped when adventurers killed their demonic leader. Scarlet Bastion Disbanded


  • Tears are not possible for an undead.[9]
  • Some can become drunk.[10]
  • The Forsaken male player character claims to be colorblind due to undeath.[11]
  • For game balance, Forsaken players are classified as humanoids for gameplay reasons because, in a PvP setting, they would be massacred with [Exorcism], [Holy Wrath], [Turn Evil], and [Shackle Undead], but they would also be immune to other CC such as [Polymorph] and [Fear]. Forsaken were classified as undead in Beta, but it proved to be too problematic with PvP balance. Many Forsaken NPCs are also considered humanoid.

In the RPG

The RPG Icon 16x36.png This section concerns content exclusive to the Warcraft RPG and is considered non-canon.

Independent undead

Independent undead are undead who maintain their own free will. Not all undead from Azeroth fall under the auspices of the Scourge. Some undead resisted the command of the Lich King or his minions, while others arose through individual circumstances. Although they have no direct ties to the Scourge, such monsters are no less dangerous.[12] Despite being free of the Lich King's influence, some independent undead still choose to serve the Lich King.[13]

See also


  1. ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
  2. ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
  3. ^  [Dual-Plagued Brain] : "Living Flesh eases the pain... Please, I just need a little. A finger or ear would do..."
  4. ^ Baron Ashbury#Quotes : "And perhaps the best part, I now have a hungering for the flesh of other humanoids. Cannibalizing their rotten corpses grants me power. Yes, DE-LI-CIOUS..."
  5. ^ H [72] Shatter the Orbs!
  6. ^ Micky Neilson on Twitter
  7. ^ Lord Walden#Quotes
  8. ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
  9. ^ Fate (short story)
  10. ^ Delvar Ironfist
  11. ^ Forsaken /silly emote: "Roses are grey, violets are grey, I'm dead and colorblind."
  12. ^ Borgstrom, Rebecca; Eric Brennan, Genevieve Cogman, and Michael Goodwin. Manual of Monsters, 132. ISBN 978-1588-4607-07. 
  13. ^ Johnstone, Mike. Magic & Mayhem, ?. ISBN 9781588469540.