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WC3RoC-logo Third War
Archimonde assaults Nordrassil
Part of Burning Crusade
Date 20 ADP - 21 ADP
Location Great Sea and continents of Lordaeron, Northrend and central and northern Kalimdor (notably Mount Hyjal).
Prelude Formation of the Scourge
Begin Scourging of Lordaeron (The Scourge of Lordaeron)
End Battle of Mount Hyjal

Mortal victory


Mortal races


Burning Legion

Commanders and leaders

Mortal races


Burning Legion

Casualties and losses

Mortal races

  • Massive

Burning Legion

  • Near annihilation
Major Battles Various, notably: Culling of Stratholme, Scourging of Lordaeron, Scourge invasion of Quel'Thalas, Siege of Dalaran and Battle of Mount Hyjal. There was also a minor battle in Darrowshire.
Previous War of the Spider
Next Ascension of the Lich King, Plaguelands civil war, Northgate Rebellion

“The Legion has returned to consume this world, woman. And this time, your troublesome race will not stop us.”


The Third War (also known as the Third Great War,[3][4] the Chaos War,[5] and the Reign of Chaos)[6] was a massive conflict between the mortal races of Azeroth and the demons of the Burning Legion which took place on the Eastern Kingdoms, Northrend and Kalimdor. The Third War began in earnest when the Capital City of the human kingdom of Lordaeron fell to the Scourge army led by the death knight Arthas Menethil,[7] and ended with the defeat of the demon commander Archimonde on Mount Hyjal. It was the second invasion of the Burning Legion.[8] During the war, the ancient night elves were reintroduced to the world.

The events of the war were chronicled in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.


After their defeat in the Second War, the Old Horde's Warchief, Ner'zhul was captured by Kil'jaeden for his failure. As punishment, the Deceiver destroyed Ner'zhuls body, and tortured his spirit until he agreed to serve the Legion once again. His soul encased in a suit of armor which was then bound to the Frozen Throne, Kil'jaeden hurled his creation towards Azeroth where it smashed into Icecrown Glacier. Thus the first major player of the Third War, the Lich King was born. Once on Azeroth, the Lich King took control of Northrend and he had the necromancer Kel'Thuzad take the Plague of Undeath to Lordaeron.

Before the start of the war, the prophet Medivh came to the young orcish Warchief Thrall in a dream. Medivh told him that he must rally the newly-reformed shamanistic Horde and move them across the sea to Kalimdor in order to escape the shadow that was coming to consume the land. Trusting the prophet's words, and wishing to find a new home for his people, Thrall listened to his call, fought his way through Lordaeron's troops and sailed west.

Scourge of Lordaeron[]

The following events started during the month of October.[9]

Disturbance in the north[]

A rumor had started to travel around Lordaeron telling how a mysterious plague had gripped the northern lands, as the majority of Lordaeron's attention was focused on the Horde's flight and rebelling orc clans. When Medivh appeared before King Terenas telling him just as he told Thrall: to save his people, he must travel west, Terenas told him that he would defend his kingdom. To do so, he sent his own son Arthas Menethil, who was dealing with the rebelling orcs with Sir Uther the Lightbringer north to investigate. Jaina Proudmoore from the Kirin Tor was sent from Dalaran to aid in the investigation.

Cult of the Damned[]

After joining Jaina Proudmoore, Prince Arthas discovered that Andorhal's granaries were wrought with a plague that killed all who are infected (within a period of time) after they had encountered Kel'Thuzad in the town of Brill. Since Andorhal was the main distribution point for grain in the area, this meant that many other towns were in danger. As they fought their way through the infected city of Andorhal they bore witness to a unique devastation like Azeroth had never seen. They hunted down and attacked Kel'Thuzad for his crimes against the people. The necromancer told Arthas that he served a greater power, a dreadlord named Mal'Ganis, and that he was responsible for the Scourge. Enraged, Arthas vowed he would kill Mal'Ganis and they traveled to Stratholme to confront him after slaying the corrupted wizard.

Rise of the Scourge[]

Scourge v Alliance in the Third War

The Alliance battling the Scourge.

While in Hearthglen, Arthas and Jaina's forces were attacked by legions of undead. Arthas had Jaina search for Uther while he and his forces remained to protect the town from the Scourge. It was then he learned the truth behind the plague. The plague didn't just kill those infected, it turned them into the undead, and thus, the Scourge. Before his army was defeated, Uther and his knights arrived and saved the town. Not long after this battle, Arthas was met by Medivh, who warned the prince to travel west to Kalimdor. Like his father, Arthas refused, saying his place was with his people. Jaina believed the prophet's words but Arthas would not be swayed to leave his kingdom. They continued to Stratholme to deal with the threat of the Scourge.

Culling of Stratholme[]

Main article: Culling of Stratholme

Upon arriving at Stratholme, they discovered that the grain had already been distributed amongst the townsfolk. Arthas, not wanting to deal with an entire army of undead, ordered Uther 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 disbanded the Knights of the Silver Hand and called all those still loyal to Lordaeron to come with him. Uther took his followers and left, and Jaina quickly followed. Abandoned by his teacher and friend, Arthas continued to Stratholme to slaughter the town.

Upon arrival, Arthas met Mal'Ganis himself. The two had a race of sorts for the lives of the town. Arthas wished to destroy them, Mal'Ganis wished to corrupt them. When the town was in ruin, Arthas demanded a final showdown with Mal'Ganis. Mal'Ganis, however, slipped away, vowing to meet him in Northrend.

After the Culling, Jaina and Uther returned to Stratholme to bury the dead. 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.[10]

Rise of the death knight[]

After arriving in Northrend, Arthas discovered the brother of the dwarven king Magni Bronzebeard, Muradin. Upon arriving at Northrend, Muradin's expedition was attacked by the undead and was cut off from the rest of the world. He had come to Northrend to obtain the runeblade Frostmourne. The two armies then established a new camp and fought together against the undead, famished and vicious packs of wolves, strange beings that seemed to be part wolverine and part human, as well as ice trolls.[11]

When word from Lordaeron called Arthas's men back home, the prince used mercenaries to burn their ships before turning his forces on the mercenaries. With no way to get home, he told his men that their only way home was to get the Frostmourne. When he finally found the blade, he and Muradin learned that the blade was cursed. Arthas accepted this curse and took the blade, though Muradin was believed to be killed in the process (he was knocked out with terrible amnesia). With the Frostmourne, Arthas lead an assault on the Scourge base where Mal'Ganis was stationed and killed the dreadlord. With the cause of his madness dead, Arthas fled to the wilderness of Northrend leaving his men to fend for themselves.

Months later, Arthas returned to Lordaeron to get his just rewards. When he greeted Terenas, he took up the cursed sword and, without a moment of consideration, slew his father. Arthas then named himself King of Lordaeron and gave the land to the Scourge. Weeks later, Arthas, now a death knight under the orders of the Lich King, was given the task to bring the dead necromancer Kel'Thuzad back from the dead. To do so, Arthas had to take his remains to a place of magical power. Arthas fought and killed his former mentor Uther for the urn he was carrying. The urn carried the ashes of his father, which Arthas disposed of and placed Kel'Thuzad's remains inside. The only magical nexus with the necessary power was the Sunwell deep inside Silvermoon, the capital of the high elves. To revive Kel'Thuzad, the Scourge would have to burn Quel'Thalas.

Fall of Quel'Thalas[]

Main article: Scourge invasion of Quel'Thalas
Arthas defeats Sylvanas

Arthas's victory over Sylvanas.

Upon reaching the borders of Quel'Thalas, the Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner became a quick thorn in the death knight's plan. Despite the mighty elf gates, the destruction of an important bridge, and many well-trained rangers, the Scourge plowed their way through Quel'Thalas' defenses on their way to Silvermoon, and from there the Isle of Quel'Danas and the Sunwell. Before Sylvanas could warn Silvermoon of the Scourge invasion, her camp was raided and she was taken prisoner. Arthas tortured her and, rather than give her the peace of death, he used his power to turn her into the first banshee, making her a slave to the Scourge. With its defenses destroyed, the Scourge entered Silvermoon and slaughtered all the high elves in the city. When Arthas reached the Sunwell, he placed Kel'Thuzad's remains in the enchanted waters, thus turning him into a lich and corrupting the Sunwell. With his business in the area done, Arthas had the Scourge kill the remaining high elves of Quel'Thalas.

The Defiler[]

Warcraft III Reforged - Arthas and Archimonde

The Scourge battling the forces of Dalaran as Kel'Thuzad summons the Defiler.

With Kel'Thuzad revived, they had to do their job for the dreadlords. Upon eradicating the remnants of the Blackrock clan in Alterac Mountains, the Scourge traveled south to Dalaran to obtain the Book of Medivh and use it to summon Archimonde himself to Azeroth. The Kirin Tor used their most powerful magics but failed to prevent the Scourge from stealing the spellbook. With the book, Kel'Thuzad summoned Archimonde and the Burning Legion to Azeroth. Archimonde's first order of business when entering the world was to destroy Dalaran with his great power. From this point and for the rest of the war, Archimonde, the field commander of the Legion, led the invasion of Azeroth himself and planned to take control of the second Well of Eternity under the World Tree Nordrassil.

Flight to Kalimdor[]

Right after the fall of Dalaran, Jaina Proudmoore brought the Alliance remnants with her to Kalimdor following Medivh's request.

Having fled the Eastern Kingdoms, the Horde was scattered while sailing past the Maelstrom. Some of the ships landed in a chain of islands near the Maelstrom where they met the Darkspear tribe. Here the orcs aided the trolls, then led them on an escape to Kalimdor.

In Kalimdor, Grommash Hellscream, chieftain of the prominent Warsong clan, had landed with his clan. Before they could regroup with Thrall, they ran into Jaina's soldiers and battles soon began.

When the rest of the Horde reached and regrouped on Kalimdor, Grom directly defied Thrall's orders by attacking Jaina Proudmoore's encampment after giving in to his instinctual bloodlust. As a punishment he was sent further into the massive Ashenvale Forest where he would collect lumber to build a base for the orcs.

Meanwhile, Thrall began his search for the rest of the Horde, and eventually came across the tauren, and their leader Cairne Bloodhoof. After helping Cairne repel invading centaurs, Cairne told Thrall of an oracle up in the Stonetalon Mountains who could aid the Horde in their journey.

Upon reaching the Stonetalon Mountains, Thrall and Jaina met the prophet who called doom long before the Scourge of Lordaeron, Medivh. Medivh asked that the Horde and the Alliance work together, forgetting their old hatreds to battle a new, more powerful enemy.


Cenarius v Grommash

Cenarius battling Grom Hellscream.

Grom Hellscream and his clan started collecting lumber as they had been ordered to. However, by doing so, they enraged the night elves. After battling the night elves, their demigod Cenarius stepped in personally to deal with the Warsong clan.

After fighting a lost battle, the orcs realized that they couldn't kill Cenarius by conventional means. Cenarius saw the orcs as demon spawn and therefore only their total eradication would satisfy him. To defeat them, Grom and the followers drank from a mysterious fountain that empowered them, not knowing that it had been defiled by the blood of the pit lord Mannoroth. Energized and turned into fel orcs, the Warsong successfully attacked and killed Cenarius. With the orcs once again doing the bidding of the Burning Legion, Mannoroth stormed up to Grom and revealed it was his blood that empowered the orcs. Despite their victory, they were once again under demon control, and thus the control of the Burning Legion.

To help their new allies, Jaina created a magical soul gem. Thrall would need to capture the mighty Grom within it, and take the gem to a prepared magical circle to free his spirit of corruption. Standing between the humans and free orcs, however, was the entire Warsong clan, fortified with scores of demons that waited in ambush and mighty infernals that rained from the sky. Despite his woes of killing many of the Warsong clan, Thrall captured Grom and brought him back for a ritual of cleansing. Along with Thrall's shamans, Jaina, and Jaina's best priests and sorcerers, they managed to pull the demonic taint out of Grom. Thrall and Grom then challenged Mannoroth, and though Thrall was defeated, Grom managed to deliver a killing blow, destroying Mannoroth and freeing the orcs at the cost of his own life. Thus Grom redeemed himself for bringing them into the Legion.

With the deaths of Cenarius and Mannoroth, Archimonde launched the invasion on Kalimdor, coming from the southeastern point of Azshara into Ashenvale.[12]

Return of the night elves[]

When it became evident that the Burning Legion had returned, Tyrande led her Sentinels into the trees, fleeing a wave of undead which had destroyed a human and orc camp. As they fled, they were cornered by dreadlords and Archimonde. Tyrande believed that with the Defilers' return the only way to defeat the Burning Legion was to use the forces of old, the sleeping druids and their leader, Malfurion Stormrage, her old love. After waking Malfurion, the next order of business was to awaken the rest of the Druids of the Talon and the Druids of the Claw.

In their quest to free the druids, they discovered the prison that held the old demon hunter, Illidan Stormrage. Tyrande believed that the Betrayer, as the night elves grew to call him, could be a powerful ally against the Burning Legion and left Malfurion to awaken the druids while she freed Illidan. Malfurion continued on to awaken the druids, who had grown feral after almost ten millennia in the caves. However, the Horn of Cenarius freed them of their madness.

The Betrayer[]

Tyrande continued her quest to free Illidan, fighting her way through the warden's guards. Tyrande placed her trust in Illidan, believing his power would help them against the Burning Legion. Malfurion, however, still distrusted his reckless brother. Eager to prove himself, Illidan vowed he would show his brother the demons had no hold over him and he led a portion of the night elf army to Felwood. Shortly after, the death knight Arthas found and battled with Illidan. As the two were evenly matched, there was no reason for Arthas to engage Illidan. Illidan demanded that Arthas reveal the reason for his presence in Felwood. Arthas told him of a powerful artifact: the Skull of Gul'dan. The skull was responsible for the corruption of the night elves' beloved forest. Arthas played to Illidan's thirst for power, mentioning that the skull held immense power, and Illidan took the bait willingly.

After fighting his way through the demons, Illidan reached and consumed the power of the Skull. With its power added to his own, he slew the leader of the dreadlords, Tichondrius, and helped seal the Legion's defeat. When Malfurion and Tyrande found the new demon-night elf that was now Illidan, Malfurion banished Illidan for his demonic corruption, claiming that he was "no brother of his". A very resentful Illidan tore his way through the dead trees and was not heard of until the coming of the naga.

Battle of Mount Hyjal[]

Main article: Battle of Mount Hyjal
Legend of Mount Hyjal TCG

Malfurion brings an end to the Third War.

After Illidan's banishment, Medivh called Malfurion and Tyrande to a secret grove where he had Thrall and Jaina meet them. Medivh revealed that he was the one who helped Burning Legion create the Dark Portal and allowed the Horde to invade Azeroth. After he was slain for his crimes, he had to return to right his wrongs and protect Azeroth from the Legion's return. Medivh asked that the mortal races unite to defeat the Legion, as their combined power was their only hope.

To prepare for the demons' attack, three camps were built around Mount Hyjal. Malfurion devised a plan to use the power of the World Tree itself to destroy Archimonde. As he went back up the summit to make the necessary preparations for Archimonde, Jaina and Thrall used whatever night elves Tyrande could spare to fortify their bases. Archimonde tore his way through ranks of human knights, elven sentinels, and orcish warriors and smashed his way through the human castle and orc fortress. Jaina was able to teleport most of the surviving troops. Before Thrall escaped death, he managed to hurt Archimonde with a bolt of his shamanistic lightning, an incredible feat in itself. With the two bases destroyed, Archimonde stormed through the night elf gate protecting the summit.

With Archimonde at the World Tree, Malfurion used the Horn to call on the ancient spirits in the area to attack the demon. In an instant, they detonated into a massive explosion that destroyed the Defiler, much of his demon army with him, and the World Tree. The price for this defeat was the night elves' immortality, but the Third War was over.


Main article: Ascension of the Lich King

The Battle of Mount Hyjal was a significant blow against the Burning Legion. As Aegwynn put it in Cycle of Hatred to Theramore Guard colonel Lorena, they "did more damage to the entirety of demonkind than has been done in thousands of years."

Terror of the tides[]

Kil'jaeden and Illidan

Kil'jaeden meets with Illidan, a few months after the Legion's defeat at Mount Hyjal and Archimonde's death.

Bristling with newfound power and free to roam the world once more, Illidan Stormrage set out to find his own place in the scheme of things. However, Kil'jaeden confronted Illidan and made him an offer he could not refuse. Kil'jaeden was angered by Archimonde's defeat at Mount Hyjal, but he had bigger concerns than vengeance. Sensing that his creation, the Lich King, was growing too powerful to control, Kil'jaeden ordered Illidan to destroy Ner'zhul and put an end to the undead Scourge once and for all. In exchange, Illidan would receive untold power and a true place amongst the remaining lords of the Burning Legion.

Illidan agreed and immediately set out to destroy the Frozen Throne, the icy crystal cask in which the Lich King's spirit resided. Illidan knew that he would need a mighty artifact to destroy the Frozen Throne. Using the knowledge he had gained from Gul'dan's memories, Illidan decided to seek out the Tomb of Sargeras and claim the Dark Titan's remains. He called in some old Highborne debts and called the serpentine naga from their dark undersea lairs. Led by the cunning sea-witch, Lady Vashj, the naga helped Illidan reach the Broken Isles, where Sargeras' tomb was rumored to be located.

As Illidan set out with the naga, Warden Maiev Shadowsong began to hunt him. Maiev had been Illidan's jailor for ten thousand years and relished the prospect of recapturing him.

Curse of the blood elves[]

Garithos and Kael Reforged

Garithos and Kael'thas in Dalaran.

After the Scourge irrevocably tainted the Sunwell, Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider gathered a group of Quel’Thalas’s defenders and destroyed the fount to avert it from obliterating his people. Although the high elves were spared from continued exposure to the Sunwell’s dark energies, in the fount’s absence they suffered terribly from withdrawal. As a result, Kael’thas desperately searched for a means to help his people—whom he had renamed the blood elves.[13]

The Alliance resistance formed under Grand Marshal Garithos' command, who had rallied the surviving humans of Lordaeron. Along with reinforcements from Stormwind, Quel'Thalas, the Kirin Tor and Ironforge, the Alliance resistance had managed to retake Dalaran,[14] pushing the Scourge back to the Plaguelands.

Civil war in the Plaguelands[]


Arthas confronts the Dreadlord Insurgents.

After the Burning Legion's defeat at the Battle of Mount Hyjal, Arthas Menethil returned to his ruined kingdom of Lordaeron to rule over his undead subjects, annihilate the last pockets of human resistance, and oust the remaining dreadlords who were unaware of the Burning Legion's defeat. However, the Lich King's powers began to wane and demanded Arthas travel to Icecrown Citadel to defend it from Illidan Stormrage's Forces.[15] With the Lich King's control over the undead faltering, one group of undead broke away from the Scourge and freed themselves of the Lich King's domination. Among them was Sylvanas Windrunner who plotted with the Dreadlord Insurgents to destroy Arthas.[16]

Surviving members of the Knights of the Silver Hand in Lordaeron retook portions of the Eastern Plaguelands from the Scourge.[17] Yet after the death of Highlord Alexandros Mograine, these holy crusaders underwent a schism: some following the Scarlet Crusade, comprising of zealous humans that cling to their scattered holdings, obsessed with eradicating the undead and retaking their once-beautiful homeland, and the Argent Dawn, which took a less extreme approach to combat the Scourge and accepted members from all of Azeroth's races into their ranks.[18]

The colonization of Kalimdor[]

Founding of Durotar TCG

Thrall and Rexxar.

Under Warchief Thrall, the orcs, tauren, and Darkspear trolls were brought together on Kalimdor to become the new Horde, to which the Forsaken would later join. A peace agreement was made between the Horde and Alliance after the war, and Thrall has made it his job to ensure that nothing happens to break this already stressed pact.

A new Alliance[]

Mass Dispel TCG

Alliance races.

Without Lordaeron, the rebuilt city of Stormwind would become the new base of the Alliance, with the Ironforge dwarves becoming their staunchest and closest geographical allies. The budding nation of Theramore has also aligned itself with the Alliance, with Lady Jaina hoping the Alliance can reunite the distant human kingdoms. The gnomes of Gnomeregan had been unable to help in the Third war as they were dealing with their own issues closer to home — namely a trogg invasion of their city. Because an invasion of troggs paled in comparison to the might of the Scourge, the gnomes decided they would fight their war alone. In the end they were forced to flee Gnomeregan and with their king, Gelbin Mekkatorque, settled in Ironforge with the dwarves as refugees. The night elves, dealing with the loss of their immortality, adjusted to their mortal existence. Sometime during this adjustment period, Malfurion Stormrage's spirit was lost in the Emerald Dream and could not wake from his magically induced coma. Going against Malfurion's wishes, Fandral Staghelm led the druids in growing Teldrassil, which became the new capital of the night elves. Having been exposed to the world outside their forests once more, the night elves decided they would have to make alliances with the wider world. Because of the animosity with the orcs for their continuing lumbering of Warsong Gulch, the night elves in the end joined the Alliance.[19]

Brave new world[]

As battlegrounds pushed the Alliance and the Horde further to war,[20] Lady Jaina Proudmoore invited King Varian Wrynn and Warchief Thrall to a summit in Theramore to find solutions for the hostilities.[21] However, King Varian Wrynn went missing under suspicious circumstances while en route to the diplomatic summit. Stormwind was believed to be going through a state of disarray and young Anduin Wrynn was given the crown so that order could be preserved within the kingdom of Stormwind, at the behest of the royal councilor, Lady Prestor.[19] Highlord Bolvar Fordragon acted as a kind of Regent of Stormwind or the Supreme Commander of Stormwind's forces on behalf of King Anduin, with Lady Prestor advising Bolvar on the proper use of Stormwind's resources.[22][23]

After their loss on Kalimdor, some forces of the Burning Legion retreated to Darkwhisper Gorge while remnants of the Scourge went to Razorfen Downs.

In the age of World of Warcraft, "Four years have passed since the mortal races banded together and stood united against the might of the Burning Legion. Though Azeroth was saved, the tenuous pact between the Horde and the Alliance has all but evaporated. The drums of war thunder once again..."[24]

In the RPG[]

Icon-RPG This section contains information from the Warcraft RPG which is considered non-canon.


Among the known people who participated in the Third War are: