World of Warcraft | We are the warlords!
Warlords of Draenor is a deliberate attempt by Blizzard to bring back an element of the game that made Wrath of the Lich King so successful - a grounding in the lore of the beloved RTS games. Warlords new and old will face off in the time travel story that isn't a time travel story.
Blizzard have given us a raft of Warlords to expect in the new expansion. The leaders of the orcish clans are all present, as are the leading figures in the Draenai. The story will follow an escaped Garrosh Hellscream as he goes back in time (with the help of a new 'friend') to make another attempt at forging an orcish Horde, united and strong. The easiest way to image this is as an alternate reality. Garrosh's interference will create a new version of history and that new history will intersect with our future.
The story doesn't start there, however, at least, not chronologically. The story starts here:
Kil'jaeden was once an Eredar. Friend to Velen and Archimonde, the three lived on the Eredar homeworld of Argus. One day Sargeras, the fallen Titan, approached these leaders of the Eredar with an offer - power in exchange for loyality. Kil'jaeden and Archimonde accepted. Velen did not, and attempted to flee with those who followed him. Just as we will be seeing Velen in Warlords, we will also be likely to see Kil'jaeden. His defeat in the Sunwell is a feature of our timeline, not the timeline Garrosh will create. The Velen described by Blizzard is the Velen of this alternate timeline also. It does not make clear how they will deal with the two versions of Velen a player might meet, stating only that this is not the time travel expansion. Kil'jaeden is enraged by the flight of Velen and pursues the Eredar across the stars. This is what brings his attention to Draenor. Draenor had another name before the Eredar settled there and became the Draenei. It already had inhabitants, however, in the form of the orcs. Kil'jaeden had been tasked with building an army to invade Azeroth, and in the orcs he saw the chance to kill two birds with one stone. His army could destroy the Draenei as a part of their preparation.
Kil'jaeden appeared to the elder shaman Ner'zhul, in the guise of an orcish ancestral spirit. He convinced him the Draenei were plotting against the orcs. The two races had largely avoided one another, with some initial overtures of peace between Durotan and Velen, but now the orcs began to attack. Meanwhile, Kil'jaeden gradually began to teach the power of the warlock to the orcs. Ner'zhul discovered he had been deceived and attempted to undo the damage, but by this time Kil'jaeden had found another pawn.
Gul'dan, apprentice to Ner'zhul, was an accomplished warlock and willing to take the orcs where Ner'zhul had been unwilling to go. The apprentice rebelled against the master and and Ner'zhul was stripped of his power. It was Gul'dan, in our history, who convinced the other clan chiefs to drink the blood of Mannoroth in order to help them destroy the Draenei. Gul'dan's Horde was united under his puppet, Blackhand.
It is here that the game will diverge from our timeline. In our history, all the clan chiefs apart from Durotan drink the blood. Under the control of demonic powers they decimate the Draenei and pour through the Dark Portal to Azeroth, destroying Stormwind. Our history stems from these events and the orcs are forever touched by the demonic curse. All of that still happened, however, because this is an alternate timeline. Our past does not change.
That is not to say that the orcs were a kind and gentle people before the demons came. Some of the descriptions of the Warlords make it quite clear that the orcs were already warlike.
Garrosh forges the Iron Horde from five of the clans - Shadowmoon, Bleeding Hollow, Shattered Hand, Warsong and Blackrock. Gul'dan is isolated with his Stormreaver clan and Durotan and the Frostwolves resist the call. The Iron Horde form a different kind of Dark Portal that not only leads to Azeroth, but leads to the Azeroth Garrosh left. Likely this involves some help from his 'new friend' with all the expertise in time travel. What is not clear is how this will intersect with the other major storyline that takes place in this period - that of Medivh.
Whatever the machinations of the portal, the result will be that the Dark Portal we see in the Badlands turns red and the Iron Horde come pouring through. This is where the player comes in. The first act will be to repell the invasion. The second will be to follow the Iron Horde back through this new portal to Draenor. A Draenor before any destruction. A Draenor, in fact, that might never face the destruction that created Outland. This raises a couple of other possibilities. Kil'jaeden was tasked with finding an army to invade Azeroth. The Iron Horde invade Azeroth. Is this a coincidence?
What it does not do is affect the other two Alliance Warlords named. Maraad and Khadgar will be Warlords of our time. They will come through the portal with us. This will be the Khadgar who defeated Medivh and the Maraad who fought in Northrend.
One more name deserves a mention here, because as much as this is not the time travel expansion, this alternative reality does allow for a happy ending for one character. Thrall is the son of Durotan. After Durotan refused to drink the blood of Mannoroth he was exiled on Azeroth. Later, when he attempted to fight the demonic influence, Gul'dan had him assassinated. Durotan and his wife, Drakha died, but Thrall survived. A reunion might be on the cards.
There are other Warlords we can expect to see. Garona Halforcen is half-orc and half-draenei. She was bred by Gul'dan. She is the niece of Maraad. She was trained as a spy and assassin. In our timeline she became the messenger between Gul'dan and Medivh and later bore Medivh a son. She helped Khadgar discover the secret of Medivh's betrayal. Under the control of Gul'dan, she assassinates King Llane. The Garona of our timeline is still alive and well, albeit susceptible to demonic control. The Garona of the alternative timeline may be a very different person, however.
Blizzard have also teased one new character - Yrel. All we know about her is that she will be a paladin from Draenor and that she will go from being naive to being a hero, taking a leadership role of some kind.
This list can be fairly criticized as being Horde dominated and male dominated. Blizzard are aware of both criticisms and the game is still just a twinkling in Metzen's eye, so while both those concerns can be raised, it might be a bit early to cancel a subscription over it just yet..