Illidan Stormrage is one of the most important characters across all of World of Warcraft’s lore and will be the first major antagonist of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic. Introduced in Warcraft 3, Illidan’s decisions have been some of the most impactful across all of Azeroth, and he’s been varyingly portrayed as a villain and an anti-hero since his first appearance.
While the character returned in World of Warcraft’s more recent expansion Legion, the Illidan seen in The Burning Crusade was quite a different portrayal, influenced both by indecision about Illidan’s role in the story and by Blizzard’s early experiments using lore-central characters as raid bosses. Here’s everything players need to know about Illidan Stormrage before World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic.
Twin brothers Malfurion and Illidan Stormrage were born over 10,000 years before the events of World of Warcraft, when the Night Elf civilization spanned much of the known world and was centered around the Well of Eternity. The Well was a magical font of power which, when discovered by a group of trolls in the distant past, transformed them into the first Night Elves, gifting them with magical abilities and making them immortal.
Both brothers became close to Tyrande Whisperwind, future Night Elf leader and priestess of Elune. Illidan grew jealous of his brother over time, who not only gained Tyrande’s affection but became the first Night Elf druid. At the same time, Night Elf Queen Azshara was contacted by the demonic forces of the Burning Legion, secretly creating an alliance with the Legion as it prepared its first invasion of Azeroth.
When the Legion attacked, its forces hoped to use the Well of Eternity to create a portal that could bring the Burning Legion’s leader Sargeras into Azeroth. Malfurion suggested destroying the Well, horrifying Illidan, who unlike his druid brother relied on the Well for much of his magical power. To make matters worse, Illidan feared that destroying the Well would end the immortality of the Night Elves.
Illidan came up with an alternate plan. He planned to use the Demon Soul, a powerful artifact created by Deathwing, to destroy the Legion’s portal. To make his ploy work, however, he pretended to pledge himself to the Legion. As a reward for his betrayal, Sargeras infused Illidan with demonic energy, burning his eyes out and turning him into the first Demon Hunter. After obtaining the Demon Soul for the Legion, who wanted to use it to strengthen their portal, Illidan rejoined the Night Elf forces and used its power to close the portal, ending the War of the Ancients, and destroying the Well of Eternity.
However, Illidan managed to save a few vials of the Well’s waters and created a second well on Mount Hyjal. This was considered an unforgivable act by Malfurion, as the power of the Well of Eternity had been part of what drew the Legion to Azeroth in the first place. Illidan was branded “The Betrayer,” and was imprisoned beneath Mount Hyjal for the following ten-thousand years, watched over by the sentinel Maiev Shadowsong.
When the Legion and the Scourge threatened Azeroth during the events of Warcraft 3, Tyrande released Illidan against Malfurion’s advice. Illidan agreed to help, and while in the demon-corrupted forest of Felwood encountered Arthas Menethil, the Lich King’s champion. Arthas manipulated Illidan into seeking out a powerful artifact, the skull of the Orc warlock Gul’dan, claiming that if it was destroyed Felwood’s corruption would end. Believing it his last chance for redemption, Illidan destroyed the skull and absorbed its power transforming into the demon seen in Burning Crusade. Tyrande and Malfurion, however, were horrified.
Sensing his wavering loyalties, the demon Kil’jaeden of the Burning Legion reached out to Illidan once more. Illidan was told to destroy the Frozen Throne, where the soul of the Lich King was held. The Lich King had originally been a pawn of the Legion, but had grown too powerful. To this end, Illidan drew upon outcast allies from the Naga to the Blood Elves. When the Lich King’s undead forces nearly killed Tyrande, however, he rediverted his efforts to saving her. Upon her safe return Malfurion agreed to end the feud with his brother if he left for good. Illidan accepted this, and, fearing Kil’Jaedan’s wrath for abandoning his task, created a small portal to flee to Outland, the ruins of the orc home-world of Draenor.
In Outland Illidan gained a new ally, Akama and the Broken Draenei corrupted by Fel magic, and began using the Black Temple as its base. However, Kil’Jaeden was able to find Illidan, forcing him to continue his quest to destroy the Lich King. On returning to Azeroth, Illidan was defeated by Arthas in Icecrown. Warned never to return, the Naga and Blood Elf leaders Lady Vashj and Kael’thas Sunstrider rescued Illidan and retreated to Outland once more.
Convinced that Kil’Jaeden would seek revenge for his failure and that Azeroth itself fall victim to another Legion invasion, Illidan declared himself Lord of Outland and began creating a Fel Orc army under the Black Temple. Akama’s people had nearly been wiped out by the Fel Orcs, however, and the Broken Draenei saw this as a betrayal in and of itself.
It’s this Illidan – paranoid, dangerous, and stalwart in the belief that he’s acting for the greater good – that players will encounter in World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic. Illidan will be the final boss of the Black Temple, the first patched raid. Some Blizzard storytellers would come to regret ending Illidan’s story this way, hence his return and redemption in Legion. Burning Crusade Classic, however, will see players return to Outland to face Illidan in all his messy, morally ambiguous, and power-hungry glory.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic releases 2021.