WoW Factor: Examining the composition of the Horde


Last week, we looked at the composition of the Alliance in World of Warcraft. This week, we’re looking at the Horde. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you missed the prior column, catch up and get back to us here.

One of the things that’s always been true about the Horde in World of Warcraft is that it is, by and large, a more heterogeneous collective of races and nations. This is partly by design, and partly because the Horde just seems to have a different way of handling its membership and its populace. If the Alliance needs a group of skilled trackers in a new landscape, it’ll find its best scouts and train them; the Horde, meanwhile, will just befriend a local group of existing trackers and welcome them into the Horde.

Does that sound a bit off the mark? Well, let’s take a look.

Member nations

The definition of “nation” is a bit more flexible when it comes to the Horde, simply because many of these groups don’t necessarily constitute a nation in the same way. Orcs are most certainly not all part of the same nation, but all orcs seem to consider themselves at least peripherally part of the Horde; what changes is their definition of what qualifies as “the Horde.” (Hence why we’ve got so many Hordes, I guess.) But these are still discrete nations with specific boundaries.

A proud, shamanistic tradition.

The Orcish Horde: There’s not really a good name for this “nation” for two reasons. One, Orgrimmar is just the capital of the Horde as a whole; two, Orcs organize themselves along clan lines, and it is really not clear which clans are in the Horde with absolute certainty. Some are definitely in there (Frostwolves and Warsong), some are probably or definitely not (Dragonmaw), and some are kind of unclear (Bleeding Hollow and Laughing Skull). There are lots of clans. But the point is that these orcs in their various clans do make up the bulk of the Horde, and the collective proper identity seems to be the Orcish Horde.

We haven’t had any one Orc Warchief claim to lead the Orcs since Garrosh, and there seems to be no design on that beyond looking to leaders like Saurfang. That’s worth noting, as will become apparent as we move further in this list; an awful lot of Horde nations don’t seem to have proper central leadership. Their leaders die a bunch.

The Darkspear Trolls: Trolls have always had a mixed relationship with the Horde. Most Warchiefs have liked the general Troll sentiment of “kill humans and elves,” but they’re a bit less fond of the sentiments “also kill every other race that isn’t Trolls, and probably the other clans of Trolls too.” The Darkspear are thus fairly unique; they’ve wholeheartedly signed on to the Horde and have thus grown much stronger than a lot of other Troll tribes, which are often beset by squabbles.

And yes, the Darkspear do not appear to have an official leader at this point, either; Warchief Vol’jin became the first non-Orc to hold the title of Warchief, but he didn’t get to hang on to it for very long. That being said, Vol’jin’s endorsement is probably the only reason for the current Warchief, since everyone knew how committed he was to the Horde as a whole.

The Forsaken: Even though they’re squatting in Lordaeron, the Forsaken don’t claim that as their national identity. They also don’t really identify as part of the Horde so much as allied with the Horde, or at least they didn’t until Sylvanas more or less became the new Warchief by virtue of seniority and Vol’jin’s endorsement. That’s not to say the nation isn’t reasonably trustworthy as a whole, just that the Forsaken have always been allies chiefly because the Horde recognized and supported them rather than due to goals or nationalistic pride.

Walking the walk.The Sin’dorei: Again, I’m sticking with the convention for wider-ranging Elf races, as the Blood Elves aren’t just Silvermoon. They’ve also become more and more invested in the Horde as time has passed in what would seem like blackmail if it were intentional. The Blood Elves are too small to stand alone and rely on the Horde, the Horde needs them to do something that puts them at odds with the Alliance, the Alliance more firmly rejects the home of the former High Elves. So they’ve gone from being tenuous allies to being more firmly entrenched.

Mulgore Tauren: Much like the Darkspear, the Tauren of Mulgore swore to remain indebted to the Horde and remain so years after the event that prompted it. They’re probably the second-most numerous race in the Horde, and to the Horde’s credit, even Garrosh never abused the Tauren’s trust or loyalty. Sure, he accidentally killed Cairne Bloodhoof, the long-time leader of the nation, but his son Baine considered it an act of betrayal by the Grimtotem rather than being Garrosh’s actual fault.

Obviously, leadership of the faction changed a while back, but Baine has proven every bit his father’s son and remains wholly dedicated to the Horde. Which is probably why he was so eager to recruit other nations of Tauren.

Highmountain Tauren: Yes, this may be an allied race in game terms, but the Highmountain Tauren have their own nation, capital, settlements, multiple tribes, and so forth. Mayla Highmountain is even in a similar position to Baine, taking over the position of national leader from her father. Her alliance with the Horde is a bold move for her people, but considering the long tradition of Tauren as a part of the current Horde, it probably feels like a lateral shift for everyone else.

Suramar: Yes, this is the one time that I’m breaking with tradition and calling an elven nation by its capital. Why? Because the Shal’dorei hold nothing else. The zone and the city within are the whole of the nation, and it’s not a nation in a great place anyway, what with Thalyssra ruling more as the leader of a civil uprising than someone who got her position through any traditional means. However, it’s also a nation that can relate pretty well to the Sin’dorei, so it makes sense that they would want to tighten their bonds. Plus, there’s the unspoken but real fact that the Warchief is, you know, an elf.

Zandalar: All right, so they’re not part of the Horde yet, but we all know they’re going to be, so we’ll add them on here. And yes, the joke that this nation is having less tumultuous leadership than the Horde as a whole seems appropriate.

Member organizations

Are you thinking “wait, there are some obvious omissions in that list?” Because you’re right. The thing is, again, nations are groups with distinct national leaders. There are a lot of groups in the Horde that are not, in fact, nations… but they’re still pretty important.

Get on Gallywix's bad side, he's really got nothing else.

Bilgewater Cartel: It’s not really clear what sort of overall government goblins belong to, but the Bilgewater Cartel is just a small fragment of the organization… and they actually control less territory than the Steamwheedle Cartel, if you can believe it. But they are a part of the Horde, even if Gallywix is generally regarded with suspicion by pretty much everyone.

Huojin Pandaren: Much like the Alliance, this is a small group of Pandaren led by a specific person allied with the Horde. Almost like panda consultants, really.

An undisclosed number of Ogres: Ogres, as a whole, are not part of the Horde. It’s kind of weird that a chunk of Ogres were ever part of the Horde. And yet some Ogres also are part of the Horde, and because Ogre political structures off of Draenor are kind of messy anyhow, it’s not really clear how many Ogres count themselves as part of the Horde. Certainly no one would be surprised if a larger chunk of Ogres joined up with the Horde, but as it stands they’ve got more of a case-by-case, village-by-village allegiance.

The Mag’har: The uncorrupted Orcs of Outland were part of the Horde as soon as they saw there was a not-actively-corrupted Horde to be a part of. Heck, one of them got to be Warchief! He did a bad job of it, but…

The Taunka: You probably forget about this particular Tauren offshoot, due to the fact that they’ve basically gone unseen since their recruitment in Northrend. They were a big deal then, but they were suffering from various attacking factions then, and it seems implied they were part of the Horde vanguard at the Wrathgate. Presumably they’re still a part of the Horde, but they are not numerous.

The Revantusk Tribe: During the Second War, Forest Trolls joined up with the Horde. That union ended when the war did, but it seems the Revantusk never got the message, or they decided that the Horde was a bigger advantage to their ongoing feud with the Wildhammer than a detriment.

The Hozen: Much like the Jinyu, these monkey-men joined up when the Horde decided to turn the Jade Forest into a battleground. Also much like the Jinyu, they’re still there but not really an active nation in the overall Horde governance.

Stonedark Drogbar: This is less a nation that joined up with the Horde specifically and more one that came along for the ride. As the Highmountain Tauren rebuilt their coalition of tribes, the Bloodtotem had already gone over to the Burning Legion, but the Stonedark Drogbar proved to be capable allies and signed on with the nation as a whole. So they’re still there as subjects of the Highmountain, presumably.

This is not ambiguous. It actually seems pretty straightforward.


Yes, a category for things that are somewhat weird in their distinctions.

Various Orcish clans: Remember how I mentioned that it was a little hard to determine exactly which clans are still part of the Horde? Yeah, this is part of that same category. There are a lot of clans and no small amount of ambiguity when it comes to whether or not a given clan is part of the Horde, loosely allied with the Horde, or part of a different Horde. Not to mention that there are members of any given clan that may be part of the Horde while other members aren’t part of the Horde…

The (alternate) Draenor Horde: Apparently led by Grom Hellscream (who is sort of responsible for starting the mess that embroiled the Horde here, but let’s not quibble), this is probably a part of the Horde, but appears to be in a similar spot to Yrel’s Draenei as not being a full member while still retaining close ties. Of course, it looks like the uncorrupted Orcish allied race will be drawn from this Horde, so it may yet change.

Stromgarde: The main reason that Stromgarde isn’t part of the Alliance is due to the tireless efforts of the Forsaken to take over the nation. Unfortunately, it appears that two problems cropped up in this arena. First, it doesn’t seem that their puppet ruler is terribly interested in being a puppet; second, it seems that the Knights of the Ebon Blade may have completely derailed that project anyhow. So it’s not really part of the Horde, either. It’s a mess is what it is.

As you can probably see, a cursory glance at the various organizations reveals lots of potential new allied races, everything from Ogres to Drogbar that could make a resonable amount of sense. There’s also a sense of how diverse the Horde really is as a whole; it’s not stronger than the Alliance number-for-number, but it is definitely very diversely populated.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to Let me know if there’s something useful I missed here; as mentioned, the Horde can be pretty diverse, so there’s always the possibility that I forgot to mention one of the various sub-factions in play.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Bruno Brito

Stonemaul Ogres. Don’t forget them.

Loyal Patron

Lets talk about the vastly unequal racial abilities in WoW.

Horde gets: (Among many other great traits)
15s attack power boost, 2 min cd (Orc)
20% reduction in all stuns (Orc)
Stam *HP* boost, about 60k atm (Tauren)
2 Sec aoe stun, 1.5min cd (Tauren)
10s personal mini heroism, 3min cd (troll)
3s aoe silence (blood elf)
rocket jump *huge mobility* 1.5min cd (goblin)
1.5s 6yard aoe knockdown, 2min cd (highmoutain tauren)
flat reduction in damage taken (highmountain tauren)

Alliance gets (Among many other meh traits)
Remove all dot/debuff type effects and reduce physical damage by 10% for 8sec, 2 min cd (dwarf)
Escape from immobilize/snare effects 1min cd (gnome)
Remove all stun effects, shares cd with pvp trinket. 2 min cd (human)
10% rep gain increase (human)
heal target for 20% of total health over 5 sec, 3min cd (draenei)
removing cast delays when taking damage (void elf)

Many people would say that these racials don’t make a huge difference in the long run, but they do. All of those AOE Horde CC’s, huge dps cooldowns, and utility make a big difference. That’s why the majority of the serious raid guilds all moved to horde. It’s also why the competitive mythic+ team is horde. Don’t even get me started on how it effects PvP in bg’s.

It’s time for this bs to end…

Loyal Patron

Or just disable racials in everything but open world…

Bruno Brito

What did you expect, after 3/4 xpacs where the best pvpers where Humans?

Sally Bowls

I think the Zandalari druid forms have increased the speculation. Bliz clearly went beyond expectations with them.

Datamining has also increased the Saurfang speculation.

You have convinced me that Orc clans provide Bliz with a near unlimited source of Allied races.

P.S. Against logic, I am still holding out for playable-by-both-factions Ethereals.

Ben Stone

Mag’har orcs have basically been confirmed as the next Horde allied race through datamining.

IronSalamander8 .

We goblins should lead the horde once we dispose of Gallywix and put Mida on the throne (hail her tallness)!

Anyway, the horde has become tighter knit over all. The Blood Elves and Forsaken were more of an alliance of convenience and that’s about what I get from the goblins too as I just made a new goblin warrior and got her through the goblin starter area. The Orcs, Darkspear Trolls, and Tauren were the core of the horde with the others being more like associate members but as they work together it becomes much more unified than it once was, although still far from a single polity in any case.

The new allied races add some interesting dynamics too. The Nightborne seemed to have joined the horde more out of their difference with the Night Elves than anything else so I imagine they’ll be much like the Blood Elves were back in BC. The Highmountain Tauren seem much like their Mulgore kin so will be more easily integrated, accepted, and willing to commit fully to the horde one would think.

When you’re threatened by those outside your friends, even if those friends are tenuous, you tend to grow closer, especially when those outside treat you all as a monolithic enemy (even if you aren’t) as war propaganda tends to paint in simple broad strokes to inspire you to lose any empathy you may have had for your enemies. As the article points out this has happened with the Forsaken and Blood Elves, less so with Goblins but you can still see it, and I fully expect it to happen with the Nightborne as well.

I like the mixed race aspect of both sides although I’m mostly Goblins and Trolls with a few others mixed in (an orc, a nightborne, a BE, etc.) and while internal drama can make for good stories and RP (although I’ve never RPed in WoW) but too much is a major issue when some troops hate others or won’t obey orders etc. Like any living organism, and in their own way such multi-racial composite nations are a living organism, they have to adapt and improve or die.

Bruno Brito



Speaking as a fellow Goblin: All hail her TALLNESS!!