"The Culling" redirects here. For the quest, see A [50WQ] The Culling.
This article is about the lore of the battle. For the Warcraft III mission, see The Culling (WC3 Human). For the dungeon instance, see Culling of Stratholme (instance). For other uses, see Culling of Stratholme (disambiguation).
Culling of Stratholme
Warcraft III Reforged - The Culling outro screen.jpg
Location Stratholme

Lordaeron victory

  • City is uninhabitable
  • Mal'Ganis retreats to Northrend
  • Arthas rallies a fleet to pursue Mal'Ganis
  Kingdom of Lordaeron

Burning Legion

Commanders and leaders

Kingdom of Lordaeron


Burning Legion

Casualties and losses

Kingdom of Lordaeron

  • ~

Burning Legion

  • ~
Concurrent Scourging of Lordaeron

The Culling of Stratholme[2] is the first major event of the Third War, signalling the first act in Arthas Menethil's descent into madness and evil, the suspending of the Knights of the Silver Hand from service and the destruction of the second most important city of the kingdom of Lordaeron.


In the early stages of the Third War, the Plague reached Stratholme in infected shipments of grain, most likely from Andorhal. The populace, unaware of the plague, baked and consumed the infected grain. The dreadlord Mal'Ganis was silently overseeing the operation.

As the population of the city started to fall ill, its citizenry started to be agitated. Some citizens started harassing food vendors and grain suppliers, while others were trying to get into the town hall to speak to Magistrate Barthilas for leadership.

When Arthas Menethil's forces arrived outside the walls of the city, the first thing they did was inspect the grain shipments in order to detect traces of the plague.[3] As it turned out, they had arrived too late and the city had already been infected, even though its residents didn't know how dire their situation was.

Arthas, not wanting to deal with an entire army of undead, ordered Uther Lightbringer and his paladins to destroy the town. Uther was appalled by this, saying he wouldn't follow the order even if Arthas was the king. For his defiance, Arthas suspended the Knights of the Silver Hand from service and called all those still loyal to Lordaeron to come with him. Uther took his followers and left, and Jaina Proudmoore quickly followed. Abandoned by his teacher and friend, Arthas led his loyalists to Stratholme, taking it upon himself to burn down the city and kill everyone in it to prevent the citizens from becoming Scourge.

The battle

As Arthas began the massacre, Mal'Ganis appeared and began "collecting" those civilians who had already been transformed into mindless zombies, gloating that soon the people of Lordaeron would belong to the Scourge. Arthas refused to let that happen and quickened his slaughter of the populace. The two sides proceeded to ravage the city building by building in a macabre race for the lives of the townsfolk. Some citizens were killed in their sleep,[4] others were killed after their zombification, and others were executed while still human and trying to flee. The priestess Eris Havenfire tried to lead sick peasants to Hearthglen, but all were cut down by the Scourge as they left the city walls.[5] Other civilians tried to fight back.[1] Many also took their own lives, opting to hurl themselves into the myriad flames of the smoldering city rather than become one of the Scourge.[6]

Finally, when most of the city was in ruins and its inhabitants either dead or converted, Arthas and Mal'Ganis confronted each other face to face. Arthas demanded that Mal'Ganis fight him here and now. Mal'Ganis, however, told Arthas to gather his forces and come to Northrend. Mal'Ganis then teleported away, leaving Arthas vowing to hunt Mal'Ganis "to the ends of the earth."[7]

The city's population was almost completely massacred by the purge. When Uther and Jaina arrived to assess the massacre, they were both shocked by the things Arthas had done. Jaina was met by Medivh, who told her Arthas would only die if he went to Northrend. The prophet then told Jaina, as he had told everyone else, that she must travel west to Kalimdor, a request she answered to.


After Stratholme was purged, some former paladins, now called Deathlords, committed the same heinous act in many other cities across Lordaeron. After years of constant war and suffering, some members of the clergy also lost their sense of the Holy Light.

Many who fell rose again,[8] and the city was later taken under the control of the Undead Scourge. After the end of the war, when Arthas was called back to Northrend, the lich overlord Kel'Thuzad established Stratholme as his capital and positioned his floating fortress, the necropolis Naxxramas, above the ruined city.


Kingdom of Lordaeron
Burning Legion


  • As the Culling was happening, many took their own lives, opting to hurl themselves into the myriad flames of the smoldering city rather than become one of the Scourge. These are the sources of the ghosts now roaming the streets of Stratholme.[9]
  • The children of the orphanage were evacuated during the Culling.[10]
  • Sir Thomas was among the soldiers that were ordered to purge Stratholme. He immediately knew it to be a mistake and believed in Uther's opinion.[11]
  • James was initially among the soldiers participating in the battle, before running off.[4]
  • Gryan Stoutmantle was in an unnamed inn on the Road to Stratholme during the Culling.
  • During the War Against the Nightmare, Jaina Proudmoore was trapped by the power of the Emerald Nightmare and was forced to have nightmares. A part of her dreams was the Culling of Stratholme, in which she would take a part alongside Arthas, fighting the undead, but still questioning if they should also kill the uninfected.[12]
  • Katherine Proudmoore experienced a vision of an abbreviated exchange between Arthas and Jaina from Jaina's memory when she rescued Jaina from imprisonment in Thros.[13]
  • Egan's mother was one of the victims during the Culling.[14]
  • When the Scourge came, Lavinia Crowe and Gerald Crowe became separated.[15]
  • According to Mathias Shaw, there was more than one way to handle the situation in Stratholme, ways that would grant salvation to some, if not all.[8]