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Lore Talk, Illidan and the Illidari - A Quick Guide

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With the release of Legion and the addition of the Demon Hunter class I decided to dive into the lore a bit and find what I was missing, although I played during BC it was a very long time ago and I didn't care about lore much when going through the area. Finding that I was not alone in this quest for missing lore, I've taken the time to write this for people who, like me, want to know what is going on before stepping foot into Legion. Note: I am not a Lore geek, so please forgive any mistakes. This is also a spoiler free zone (assuming you have seen the trailer for Legion).



Tl;Dr - Illidan is both a good guy and a bad guy, depending on who you ask and what time frame you're looking at. Although Illidan has caused a lot of harm over his 10,000+ year life time he has also almost single handedly saved Azeroth on a few occasions. Although for Legion it is unclear if he is a good guy or a bad guy, one thing is for sure - Illidan will stop at nothing to destroy the Burning Legion.


Important People:

Illidan 'The Betrayer' Stormrage:


  • Alignment: Chaotic Good (WoW Wiki calls him Chaotic Neutral but I disagree).

  • Age: 10,000ish.

  • Brother of Malfurion Stormrage

  • Leader of the Illidari

Malfurion Stormrage


  • Alignment: Neutral Good (WoW Wiki calls him Chaotic Good but I disagree).

  • Age: 10,000ish

  • Brother of Illidan Stormrage, husband of Tyrande Whisperwind

  • Leader of...a bunch of Druid stuff.

Tyrande Whisperwind


  • Alignment: Neutral Good

  • Age: 10,000ish

  • High Priestess of Elune, co-leader of the Night Elfs, Wife of Malfurion

Maiev Shadowsong


  • Alignment: Lawful Neutral

  • Age: 10,000ish

  • Bounty hunter set on capturing Illidan, Warden of the prison where Illidan was kept for 10,000 years, leader of The Watchers, Illidan's executioner.

A Whole Wack of Demon Bad Guys


Basically the demons are bad, very bad. They destroy worlds, literally. How many worlds they have destroyed is unclear but we know it is a lot, likely hundreds. Of the super bad demons that are important to lore there is about a dozen or so, but their army is almost limitless. Made up of not only demons and infernals, but also fel corrupted races that they have encountered and destroyed.

These guys play a huge part in Azeroth history, far too large to go into here. They are responsible for the Orcs coming to Azeroth, the destruction of Outland, creating the Lich King, and have killed millions of people in Azeroth over their three demonic invasions.



Over Illidan's story there is a lot of people that helped to manipulate him either directly or indirectly, often this is very clear in the lore but there is also a great number of times where the manipulation could be magical in nature but is not clearly defined as such. Due to these complexities they are mostly omitted from this article, if you wish to know more I highly recommend the wiki pages and a few other websites that I shall cite at the end.

There is also a GREAT amount of history that I am either glossing over or totally leaving out. This is Illidan's story and the story of the Illidari, although highly condensed. A full account of the history, the actors in the story, and all of the side intricacies would, and do, literally fill books. If you want to know everything, you have about 6 books and a few hundred wiki articles to read. Good luck.


10,000 years ago before Warcraft I, pre-War of the Ancients and War of the Ancients

Illidan's story starts out about 10,000 years before WarCraft 1 just before the first Demonic Invasion. Illidan is the twin brother of Malfurion, together they were childhood friends with Tyrande - both brothers developing romantic feelings for her as they grew up. Illidan, unlike his brother, hated learning about the druid's magic when he was younger and instead looked to arcane magic as his source of power - he also proved to be very good at it and is cited as one of the most powerful sorcerers Azeroth has ever had. Hoping that his power in the arcane would impress Tyrande and to slate his own thirst for power he dived deeper and deeper into the arcane magics, this combined with the actions of other Night Elves all tapping into the Well of Eternity is what first alerted the Burning Legion to Azeroth's presence.

During the early days of the Burning Legion's invasion Illidan and Malfurion worked together to stop them, however they quickly came to the understanding that the Burning Legion was just too powerful of a force to stop. Desperate to save Azeroth, Malfurion develops a plan to stop the Burning Legion by destroying the Well of Eternity. Illidan was not a fan of this plan to say the least, as the Well was the primary source of Illidan's arcane powers and also the source of the Night Elves immortality. However, this alone was not yet enough to break Illidan away from his brother and his people. Illidan's love for Tyrande is often over looked but is core to many of his actions, almost everything Illidan did was in an attempt to win her love. Tyrande on the other hand was in love with Malfurion since they were all children, this was unknown to Illidan. Using this to manipulate Illidan the Satyr Xavius convinced Illidan that Malfurion wasn't his friend, that Tyrande didn't love him, and that Illidan was basically alone and unwelcome. Finally, in a moment of anguish and heart break, Illidan saw Tyrande and Malfurion hugging or making out or something and pushed Illidan over the edge.

Illidan rejected Malfurion and his people and set out to stop the Legion on his own. Although Illidan did want to save Azeroth, he also wanted to impress Tyrande in order to win her love, and he wanted to protect his source of power by saving the well from destruction.

Knowing that he was not yet powerful enough to stop the Legion, Illidan went to the demons and allied himself with Mannoroth in an attempt to gain the power he needed to destroy them. Mannoroth in turn took him to meet Sargeras who quickly worked out that Illidan wasn't actually there to serve them, impressed with the Andromeda sized balls Illidan had to try to double cross the Legion like that, Sargeras "gifted" Illidan by burning out his eyes and giving him arcane infused magic tattoos. Nominally working for the Legion, Illidan set out to do their bidding.


Events transpire.


Malfurion sets his plan into motion to destroy the Well of Eternity, Illidan and the Burning Legion respond and there is a massive battle over the Well. The Well is destroyed but before it is, Illidan is able to grab a few water bottles full of super magic water from it and make his escape. The Legion is beaten and cast out of Azeroth but in a super-villain monologue Sargeras vows to return.

Illidan is convinced that Azeroth needs the Well in order to have enough power to stop the Burning Legion if they ever return, and Illidan needs the Well to fuel his own power...and Illidan needs the well to keep the Night Elves immortality. Traveling to Mount Hyjal, he pours the water bottles into the lake there and creates a second Well of Eternity. Malfurion, Tyrande, and others feel a disturbance in the force and quickly find Illidan and his lake.

Malfurion, furious at his brother's seeming act of treachery condemns his brother's actions. Illidan, unphased by his brother, says that he did the right thing and saved the world. Malfurion can't handle that and is convinced that his brother is lost to the sway of magic and so orders that he be locked up forever. Illidan, having lost Tyrande to Malfurion, banished and unappreciated by his people, and his brother ordering he be locked up is understandable a bit salty as he is lead away to his jail cell.


10,000 years later, the Burning Legion Returns (WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos, WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne)

The Burning Legion returns, how they do so is not all that important to Illidan's story but is interesting if you want to look into it. Scared out of her mind that the Legion is back, Tyrande goes to Illidan's jail and frees him...killing a lot of guards in the process. Illidan still in love with Tyrande even after 10,000 years in hole agrees to help her and follows her to fight the Legion. Malfurion, convinced that freeing him was a catastrophic mistake, tells them what he thinks. Illidan seeing that although Tyrande might have softened over the past 10,000 years his brother is not so reasonable. Leaving Malfurion and Tyrande behind, Illidan sets off to prove that the Demons don't control him and to stop the Burning Legion.


Events transpire, Illidan fights Arthas (this is before Arthas became the Lich King, Arthas is just working for the Lich King), is told about a super magical item called The Skull of Gul'dan, finds said Skull, uses the Skull and becomes the super demon/elf badass that we know and love (see image below)


Infused with his new Demon Steroids, Illidans fights and kills Tichondrius - a super demon that basically ran the Burning Legion's CIA/Black Ops unit...army...people. However, Illidan's new powers and Tichondrius's death come at a massive price, he is now more Demon then he is Night Elf. Tyrande and Malfurion again feel a disturbance in the force and confront Illidan, Malfurion again rages at his brother and banishes him from the forests. Illidan, hella mad that his sacrifices and pain is ignored and unappreciated, leaves Night Elf lands. Maiev, warden of Illidan's jail, follows him to re-arrest him.

With no home, no people, near infinite cosmic power but no living space, Illidan is approached by Kil'jaeden (another super demon) and is asked to help the Burning Legion tie up some loose ends, namely go to the Frozen Throne, destroy it, and kill Ner'zhul (super shaman/warlock that worked for the Legion but started getting too big of a head). In exchange for helping the Legion, Kil'jaeden offered Illidan even more power. Illidan loves three things, Tyrande, power, and killing bad guys. Two out of three isn’t a bad deal so he agrees to help Kil'jaeden.

Illidan goes out to get ready to destroy the Frozen Throne, but runs into some problems. Maiev follows him and will stop at nothing to kill or imprison him. Events transpire, Illidan makes some new friends (the Naga, Furblongs, some satyrs), Maiev kills his new friends, tries to kill him, he gets away, this repeats a couple of times before finally they meet for a big show down on the Broken Isles.

Maiev and her people, Illidan and his people, are locked in a major battle until finally Illidan kills basically all of Maiev's Wardens before going one-on-one with Maiev herself. Before Illidan and Maiev can settle this once and for all, Tyrande and Malfurion show up to crash the party. Tyrande and Malfurion's forces attacks Illidan's army, nearly destroying them, forcing Illidan to run for the hills.

Tyrande follows Illidan and finally confronts him and finally tells him why she never loved him, Illidan was too drunk with power and too reckless, forgetting his druid roots and his inner strength. Coming to grips with Tyrande's feelings for him, Illidan traps her for her own safety and runs away across the sea.

Trying to make good on his deal with Kil'jaeden, Illidan tries to destroy the ice cap of Northrend and in so doing destroy the Frozen Throne, Malfurion and Maiev however finds and stops Illidan before he is able to finish the spell. Malfurion entangles Illidans and they argue. Illidan, mad that Malfurion won't let him destroy the Frozen Throne - an enemy they share - is told by Malfurion that Tyrande is dead (her death was reported to Malfurion by Maiev), Illidan is heartbroken and forgets about the whole destroying the Frozen Throne job.

Prince Kael'thas, a newly minted ally of the Night Elves, reveals that Tyrande is not dead and was not "torn apart by the undead" as Maiev reported to Malfurion and that Tyrande is just missing and likely in need of saving. Malfurion arrests Maiev and sets out to find Tyrande, Illidan begging to be allowed to assist in her rescue is allowed to take his personal guard and go find her.

Illidan finds Tyrande under heavy attack by the undead, he and his Naga guard attack the undead and destroy them there by saving Tyrande. Illidan then escorts her back to Malfurion safely, Tyrande, shocked that Illidan did this, is assured by Illidan that even if he becomes a monster, he will always protect her. Malfurion grants Illidan his freedom, provided that he never threatens the Night Elf people again. Illidan agrees and leaves peacefully.

Illidan, now remembering the whole botched destroy the Frozen Throne job, knows that Kil'jaeden is coming for him and so he runs away to Outland to get ready for the coming fight. Gathering an army and readying for War, Illidan attacks the Black Temple and battles the Pit Lord Magtheridon, throwing him out of the Black Temple and taking it for himself. Eventually, Kil'Jaeden finds Illidan in the Black Temple and confronts him. Illidan with some smooth talking convinces Kil'jaeden that Illidan's woes were merely a set back and that he fully intends to finish the job of destroying the Frozen Throne. Sated, Kil'jaeden leaves.

Illidan then works to make good, gathering his army and allies they set out to attack the Frozen Throne. Once there, a massive battle takes place where in the end Illidan and Arthas face off against one another. Arthas wins and seemingly kills Illidan. Illidan's army and allies take Illidan's very wounded body back to Black Temple and heal him.


Outlands (slightly pre-WoW:TBC and up to the end of WoW:TBC)

After Illidan's defeat at the Frozen Throne, he is now sure that Kil'jaeden will want his head on a stick. He starts to create new Fel Orcs to bolster his army, the Illidari Demon Hunters are formed like a demon fighting SEAL team that reports directly to Illidan, his allies are gathered and he prepares for war. Although it is unclear why (maybe he just had to much demon blood to drink one night) Illidan orders, or at least allows, Keal'thas to attack Shatterath there by drawing them into a war with his forces and causing a large number of Blood Elves to leave his army to join Shatterath and later the Horde.

Throughout The Burning Crusade expansion there is a number of quests and bits of lore that seem to point to Illidan starting to lose his mind, weather he was actually going insane or if these oddities are just some inconstancy in the lore is unknown.

Finally, the expansion and Illidan end in the Black Temple. The players raiding Black Temple and Maiev attack and beat Illidan, killing him. In the aftermath of his death Maiev takes his body and all of the Illidari she can find back to Azeroth to once again imprison them in the same jail that Illidan spent 10,000 years in.



Although there are a number of quests, lore books, flashbacks, and timey wimey stuff about Illidan during Wrath of the Lich King, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor these are basically totally irrelevant and only offer some minor information and some possible story arcs that were either abandoned or have not been fully revealed yet.

The next interesting thing that happens in Illidan's story occurs at the end of Warlords of Draenor. Gul'dan, defeated in Hellfire Citadel, is able to make his escape to Azeroth and is shown reviving Illidan in the Legion cinematic teaser. Why does Gul'dan do this? ...we don't know. I have spent several hours searching the internet trying to find an answer to this question, but it seems that there just is not one yet. I can't even find a solid fan theory. I expect that it shall be revealed at some point during Legion.

In any case, Illidan is back and really pissed off about the whole being killed in Black Temple thing. He is also missing. The exact timing is a bit unclear, but either right before being awoken or right after the Burning Legion attack the Vault of the Wardens, Illidan's and the Illidari's prison. Unable to stop their attack, Maiev releases the Illidari so they can help her beat back the Burning Legion. Before the battle for the Vault is over however, Gul'Dan escapes with Illidan (awake or asleep is a bit unclear) through a fel portal, Maiev follows through the portal after them. The remaining Illidari beat the Burning Legion at the Vault and leave there to secure their place in the world and in the coming war.


So, we know who Illidan is now. A power hungry Night Elf turned Demon that really is not all that bad of a bad guy. Every villain has a story of how they got from point A to point B, and Illidan's is filled with bad decisions, a despite desire to impress a girl, an obligation to save the world, and a deep bitterness when everything he touches turns to ash. Many questions remain and for the first time in a long time I'm looking forward to the lore of Legion and the quests we find there. But one major thing still has not been answered: who are the Illidari?


The Illidari

This part is a bit confusing because there doesn't really seem to be a good answer for it. The Illidari might refer to Illidan's army as a whole, even going so far as to include his Naga and other allies - however this is unlikely due to the fact that the Naga and others do not wear the same tabard as the Illidari and fight under a different banner. 

The term, or name, Illidari more likely refers to a specific set, group, or unit within Illidan's army. They are the Demon Hunters, highly trained and infused with demonic and fel magic to enhance and empower them - much like how Illidan himself is powered. This unit basically acts as Illidan's Secret Service and as his personal assassins/black ops/wet work team, serving Illidan be being his personal guard and as his elite fighting tool to attack the Burning Legion on their own worlds and to defend Azeroth.

Who the Illidari demon hunters are as people can be found by going through, and paying attention, to the Demon Hunter starting zone - something I won't talk about here as to prevent spoilers...also I haven't done it when I was paying attention as the last time I did the starting zone about 80% of the quest text and 100% of the cinematics were not in the alpha yet. 



I hope this helps and interests some people, feel free to comment if you see something inaccurate and I'll update the post.





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really great job here, only one thing I might add in and its not necessarily huge common knowledge.

to all there be spoilers here

but when you do the green fire questline as a lock you go on a grand sight seeing tour of the black temple. one of the more interesting parts for me was the Reliquary of the Lost boss area. When running BT this is where the giant multi face boss is. However, during green fire quest you get more info on it. The basic long and short of it, is that Illidan more or less had made a personal well of eternity in the black temple. It was quoted (from memory) as being a near infinite pool of arcane energy or something like that. I think it was mentioned as being close in power to the well of eternity but not quite

so just a fun tidbit as to what illidan was doing while he was farting around in outland. his affinity for swirling magical jacuzzis seems to follow him throughout life


ah yes here we go, link and copy and paste of words 


Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: This... is amazing... an untapped store of raw arcane energy.

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: For years it has languished, slowly growing in strength...

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: Imagine what we could summon with just a fraction of this power!

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: Summon... ha, imagine what we could become if fused with power of this magnitude...

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: The powers of this room are not unlike the original Well of Eternity on Azeroth.

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: So this is how Illidan bound so many demons to his will...

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: Yes. The payment for the demons' service was to drink from the energy of this place.

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: By feeding upon this place's power, they were broken free from their addiction to the Legion's magic.

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: I believe this is the original power source he intended to offer the blood elves to free them from their addiction to the Sunwell... but for some reason he didn't let them near it...

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: What?? you have no proof of such a claim.

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: Didn't you notice? The demons under Illidan's command were free of the entropic, fel-green corruption that pervades the Legion.

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: ... why do you talk so much, Kanrethad?

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: I was there... at the end...

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: ... oh dear, are you going to regale me with yet another of your horrible stories?

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: ... shut up.

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: ...

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: I think I liked you better when your jaw was missing.

Jubeka Shadowbreaker says: Did you hear that?! Those Ashtongue dogs are coming. Let's hurry up and start the ritual!

Kanrethad Ebonlocke says: Very well. We'll return later after the crystal is fully charged.

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