Wanna up your nerd status, Mama? Your Harry Potter and Star Wars obsessions are fun and admirable. Your comic book collection is enviable. But, if you really want to reach peak “nerd,” there’s only one way to turn: World of Warcraft.
Set in a world where magic and mythical creatures not only exist but thrive and battle, World of Warcraft is an online role-playing game that is the game of choice for literally millions of people. The Warcraft fantasy universe has been around for more than two decades. World of Warcraft, though, was the fourth release set in the universe and quickly became the most popular. Now WoW is 16 years old and still as popular as ever.
One of the best parts of World of Warcraft? The vibrant and elaborate characters. You can crest your own character, making them as unique as you but a million times more evil — and probably more skilled with a sword, too. Over time, you’ll create a backstory for your character and, in full disclosure, become pretty attached to them. The OG characters of World of Warcraft, though, are even more storied and elaborate. Every character’s story and history goes back generations and contains more twists than a convoluted soap opera.
Below, you’ll find a bit of a primer on how character-building works in World of Warcraft, as well as a list of some of WoW’s most beloved characters. Enjoy!
World of Warcraft Factions
Like any good rivalry, there are always two sides to every battle. In World of Warcraft, those two sides are the Alliance and the Horde. Where you end up in the fight is based on your character’s race. Here’s how those break down.
Horde vs. Alliance
The Horde comprises orcs, trolls, undead, blood elves, goblins, Pandaren, and Tauren. The Alliance comprises humans, dwarves, night elves, gnomes, Worgen, Pandaren, and Draenei.
Those in the Horde faction are often seen as the “bad guys” because, historically, those in the Horde faction (namely orcs) were bad and those in the Alliance (humans) were “good.” However, the continued Warcraft story has complicated things by creating flaws and allowing for dark-doings from both sides. Things are no longer good and bad or black and white in the World of Warcraft, just like in real life. But in most cases, the real distinction between the factions lies in the skill of the players. WoW OGs typically go for characters within the Horde faction.
World of Warcraft Races
In World of Warcraft, “races” aren’t like they are in real life. The races are the types of characters that make up each faction — humans, orcs, night elves, etc.
Each race comes with its own set of unique abilities, skills, and weaknesses, known collectively as “stats.” In addition to the main races that make up the Horde and the Alliance, you also have allied races from faraway lands. These include the:
- Void elf
- Lightforged Draenei
- Dark iron dwarf
- Kul Tiran
- Highmountain Tauren
- Mag’har orc
- Zandalari troll
A bit about your stats
All players are given a set max number of “points” in each attribute. For instance, intelligence or stamina. Depending on the race you choose, you’ll start with a certain amount of “points” for each attribute. Some races come with great intelligence but very little stamina, meaning your character might not last as long during battle. As you continue to play the game, you’ll be able to earn more points and spend them on various attributes, tweaking your character until they’re just how you want them.
The best way to think of your character’s class is to look at it as a job. Both factions have a set of classes unique to their faction. Some classes are hybrids, though, so players on each side are performing the same jobs. The classes in World of Warcraft are:
- Death knights
- Demon hunters
Just like your stats, each class comes with its own set of talents. As you continue to play, you can earn more points to develop your talents further.
Popular World of Warcraft Characters
While you can create your own character, there are a number of prominent, permanent characters in WoW, too. A few examples:
- Fenris Wolfbrother — The Hunter Iron Wolf
- Yrel — The Light of Hope
- Ner’zhul — Warlord of the Shadowmoon Clan
- Archmage Khadgar — Leader of the Kirin Tor
- Velen — The Divine
- Blackhand — Warlord of the Blackrock Clan
- Vindicator Maraad — Hammer of the Light
- Kilrogg Deadeye — Warlord of the Bleeding Hollow Clan
- Durotan — Son of Garad, Chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan
- Grommash Hellscream — Warchief of the Iron Horde
- Kargath Bladefist — Warlord of the Shattered Hand Clan
- Vereesa Windrunner — Ranger-General of the Silver Covenant
- Tyrande Whisperwind — High Priestess of Elune
- Li Li Stormstout — The Wild Dog
- Sunwalker Dezco — Chieftain of the Dawnchaser Tribe
- Rexxar — Champion of the Horde
- Gul’dan — Betrayer of the Orcs
- Malfurion Stormrage — First of the Druids
- Uther the Lightbringer — The First Paladin
- Shaohao — Last Emperor of Pandaria
- Taran Zhu — Lord of the Shado-Pan
- Varian Wrynn — High King of the Alliance
- Anduin Wrynn — Crown Prince of Stormwind
- Jaina Proudmoore — Leader of the Kirin Tor
- Garrosh Hellscream — The Stranger
- Sylvanas Windrunner — The Banshee Queen
- Thrall — World Shaman
- Vol’jin — Warchief of the Horde
- Baine Bloodhoof — High Chieftain of the Tauren
- Lor’themar Theron — Regent Lord of Quel’Thalas
- The Lich King — Lord of the Scourge
- Illidan Stormrage — The Betrayer
- Deathwing — The Destroyer
- Lei Shen — The Thunder King
- Wrathion — The Black Prince
- Chen Stormstout — Legendary Brewmaster
- Moira Thaurissan — Queen-Regent of the Dark Iron Clan
- Cairne Bloodhoof — High Chieftain, Earthmother’s Chosen
- Bolvar Fordragon — Lich King and Jailer of the Damned
- Lady Katrana Prestor (Onyxia) — Lordaeron noble
Where to Read About WoW Characters
Want to get a real feel for some of the most popular WoW characters? Read about them in action through these short stories.
War of the Shifting Sands (WotSS)
Road to Damnation (RtD)
Charge of the Aspects (CotA)
Heart of War (HoW)
Lord of His Pack (LoHP)
Trade Secrets of a Trade Prince (TSoaTP)
Fire and Iron (FaI)
The Judgment (TJ)
Cut Short (CS)
Seeds of Faith (SoF)
Edge of Night (EoN)
Prophet’s Lesson (PL)
Quest for Pandaria (QfP)