Before I get into discussing this storyline, let me warn you if you haven’t completed the level 19 Valdrakken Accord storyline in World of Warcraft Dragonflight between the green dragons and a certain emissary from the blue dragonflight; please stop reading now and come back after you complete this story. It’s really worth getting the whole storyline to put everything into the proper context. I’m going to spoil the entire storyline, and it is really worth experiencing firsthand.
Expectations for this storyline were unfortunately set when Wowhead posted a datamined conversation between Tyrande and Malfurion a few months ago. This conversation in isolation made it seem as if the only way for Ysera to return was for Malfurion to take her place because she sacrificed herself for him, and it wasn’t her time to die. This idea was troublesome for a few reasons. First, as much as I love Ysera, I felt her story had been done well and getting her back in Ardenweald was fantastic, but it felt like things with her were complete. Additionally, I was looking forward to seeing Merithra come into her own and take up the mantle of aspect of the green dragonflight. It seemed unlikely that would happen if Ysera returned to life.
The last aspect of this leaked dialogue that bothered me was the whole notion that Malfurion had to sacrifice himself for her to return because she had sacrificed herself for him. I’ve played through that Legion storyline a few times, and never once did it seem like she specifically chose to sacrifice herself to save him. She certainly did everything she could to try and save him and died in the course of that endeavor. However, it never seemed a trade to me. In fact, at the end of the storyline, Malfurion was still in peril. Additionally, if it genuinely was a trade, it felt like a poor one, as outside of him helping to retake Darkshore, it didn’t seem like he had done much in the intervening years.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to ask Steve Danuser about the alleged trade ahead of the Dragonflight launch. I was relieved to know it wouldn’t be a permanent swap, which reassured me that maybe Merithra would get her moment. Additionally, he also talked a bit about the unfortunate reality of having a limited amount of time to tell the various stories in game often means only a handful of characters get their moments in the sun at a time. Since Tyrande was such a focus in Shadowlands, there wasn’t as much room for him as he’d be filling the same role narratively. The weirdness about the apparent reason there needed to be a trade wasn’t addressed, and in hindsight, that was most probably because it would have involved massive spoilers.
So now that we are all on the same page about the story we were expecting, what about the story we received?
The setup in this storyline is that there’s an envoy from the blue dragonflight who’ve arrived to learn more about the green dragonflight. Merithra, of course, welcomes them with open arms and allows both the player character and the envoy to tag along as her son works on a way to try and resurrect Ysera. Eventually, we are all allowed to visit the entrance to the Dream, which the Primalists had been attacking during the leveling storyline. Once reaching this point, the blue emissary reveals they are actually Primalists and wastes no time blocking the rest of the green dragonflight from access to the gate. Merithra quickly deduces that although they are blocked from entering the Dream from the living world, Ysera probably would be able to get there from Ardenweald. We also meet up with Tyrande and Malfurion on the way to Ardenweald because the Primalist’s objective seems to be the seed that had been recently planted in the Dream.
The party which heads to Ardenweald is the player character, Tyrande, Malfurion, and Somnikus, who is a green dragon grieving the death of his son and who also felt responsible for letting the Primalists into the Dream in the first place. Ysera is absolutely willing to help, but the gift of Anima the Winter Queen had given to save her, created a bond and she cannot leave without someone else taking her place. At first, Somnikus volunteers because he feels responsible and has longed for death since his son died. However, the Winter Queen quickly points out that he cannot take Ysera’s place because dragons are not part of the same cycle as the other races and wouldn’t naturally come to Ardenweald at death.
This is an interesting point and one I hadn’t expected since Ysera did show up there. However, after she died, we did see Elune purify her and accept her, so it seems Elune gave Ysera to her sister specifically. This would have been before the cycle of life and death was broken, so she arrived in Ardenweald with no problem. Since this would have been before the Winter Queen asked Elune for help, it seems she potentially did this, so Ysera would have the chance to be reborn again. Now I’m wondering where the dragons normally go at death, but that’s a discussion for another time. The most important thing is that the person who takes Ysera’s place has to be someone who would be destined for Ardenweald when they die.
The player character is obviously not an option for many reasons. I mean, I main a Druid, and Ardenweald is by far my favorite place in all of the Shadowlands, but it’d kind of grind things to a halt if I took her place. Likewise, I don’t believe Tyrande is a viable option either. Although she is a night elf with a connection to nature, I don’t believe Ardenweald would make the most sense for her. Maldraxxus is the most likely destination for her as she has never backed down from a fight, even before her Night Warrior days. We didn’t see much of her warrior side before BfA in WoW, but she was the general of the Sentinels, and she has a very long history as a fighter. A second option likely for her would also be Kyrian. She certainly embodies the ideals of the kyrian, though she does seem to struggle with humility occasionally. However, it can’t be argued that she hasn’t lived a life of service and regularly put the needs of her people ahead of hers. Of course, her whole stint as the Night Warrior always seemed to be much more about what she personally needed/wanted rather than what her people actually needed. So that could potentially count against her there. Regardless, she’s unlikely to head to Ardenweald at death.
Which leaves Malfurion. Can there be any doubt Malfurion will head to Ardenweald when he dies? He’s essentially the ideal candidate as someone who is very strongly tied to nature. Of the group who went to see if Ysera could get into the Dream, he really is the only viable option. As such, I really wish they had left out his line regarding Ysera giving her life for him. Although I’m sure that is a very salient point for him and does weigh into his willingness to take her place, for everyone else, that doesn’t really factor in. There was a time crunch; they needed to get into the Dream ASAP. Everyone who traveled to Ardenweald to get Ysera had important reasons to be there, and it wouldn’t have made sense to spend time gathering a larger force. It just had to be him.
As I played through the rest of the storyline, another thing Danuser said in that interview came back to me. He said, “there’s every possibility that Malfurion can come out of this with not only a new perspective on some things, but perhaps with some new energies that he can tap into.” From the moment Ysera returns, it is obvious she isn’t the same. Her dragon form is clearly marked with the energies and magic of Ardenweald. In fact, I believe Merithra comments something like she’s “been touched by death.” I wonder how spending time in Ardenweald will affect Malfurion and if, sometime in the near future, we might need someone who has been touched by death to fight someone or something.
This has been a long way of saying that caution should be taken when looking at datamined, well really anything, but especially story. Story snippets out of context are never good ways to experience stories because it’s the context of how they are done which will determine how good or bad they are. I expected not to enjoy this storyline, but it is one of my favorite moments of Dragonflight thus far. All because I know key information now that wasn’t part of the datamined info.