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This article is about the living dead in general. For the undead Forsaken playable race, see Undead (playable). For the two main undead factions, see Forsaken and Scourge.
Army of the Dead
Faction/Affiliation Scourge, Forsaken, Knights of the Ebon Blade, Necrolord Covenant, Cult of the Damned, Independent
Character classes

WoW Icon update Apothecary, Assassin, Dark ranger, Death knight, Hunter, Mad scientist, Mage, Monk, Necromancer, Priest, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Warrior

Icon-RPG Fighter, Shadow ascendant, Spymaster, Lightslayer
Racial capital Neutral Seat of the Primus
Neutral Icecrown Citadel
Neutral Acherus
Horde Ruins of Lordaeron
  Formerly Horde The Undercity †
Racial leader(s) Neutral IconSmall Primus The Primus
Neutral IconSmall BolvarUndead2 Bolvar Fordragon
Horde The Desolate Council
  Formerly Neutral IconSmall Sylvanas Sylvanas Windrunner
Neutral IconSmall NewLichKing IconSmall LichKing The Lich King †
Racial mount IconSmall SkeletalHorse Skeletal Horse
IconSmall Bat Bat
IconSmall Deathcharger Deathcharger
Homeworld Shadowlands, Azeroth
Area(s) Shadowlands, Azeroth, Outland, Alternate Draenor
Language(s) Common, Gutterspeak, Orcish, Nerubian, Vrykul, Zombie, Language of death

The undead are former mortals who have died and have had their souls trapped between life and death. They derive power from necromantic magic.[1] Most common examples being zombies or ghosts, undead are typically mindless, bloodthirsty fiends hostile toward any living thing that comes across their path. But some have managed to retain their memories and be who they were in life.

In the Shadowlands, they are all soldiers of the Necrolord Covenant, the armies that serve as the first line of defense in the realm of Death, and that honor those who seek power and glory in battle. All of them receive a portion of the Primus' power in order to carry out their duty.[2]


Necromancy and the creation of undead soldiers were invented by the necrolords of Maldraxxus in the Shadowlands who use undead as a militia force to use in defense of that entire plane, should it come under attack.[3] Somehow, their knowledge came to be known by the nathrezim, as well as (and, in some cases, through them) various mortals.

Undead have appeared all throughout Azeroth, they were used as a combat tool during the War of the Ancients when the nathrezim used them to scour the remains of Suramar, and once again during First War when the necrolytes of the Orcish Horde animated skeletal warriors to fight against the humans. During the Second War, the essence of those necrolytes was used to power the Horde's death knights during their creation.

Later, the studies of necromancy took an important role and were used heavily in the Third War when the Cult of the Damned spread the plague across Lordaeron resurrecting the majority of the dead denizens, including sapient races and animals, under the control of the Lich King. In modern times, the main groups of undead are the Scourge, the Forsaken, and the Knights of the Ebon Blade.

Racial history[]


Beyond the Veil Maldraxxus

The Maldraxxi in the field of battle.

In Maldraxxus, birthplace of necromantic magic,[4] the undead Maldraxxi were unified under an Eternal One known as the Primus. They are split into five houses that pledged unending loyalty to the Primus, the House of the Chosen, the House of Constructs, the House of Eyes, the House of Rituals and the House of Plagues; each with their own specialties to protect the Shadowlands.


Nathanos Blightcaller TCG

Nathanos Blightcaller

A great portion of the human denizens of the Kingdom of Lordaeron was resurrected by the plague propagated by the Cult of the Damned. First under the Lich King influence, they managed to get free thanks to Sylvanas Windrunner and the weakening of the Lich King in Northrend. After a civil war led by Sylvanas, the undeath survivors proclaimed themselves as the Forsaken, with Sylvanas Windrunner as their Queen, and vowed to defeat the Scourge and ultimately the Lich King himself.

The Forsaken capital, the Undercity, is located under the ruins of Capital City. It is a place of dark, somber colors but it has inns, forges, and businesses that cater not only to the undead but visitors from the Horde, with whom the Forsaken have allied themselves.

Free will is one of the cornerstones of Forsaken culture, with the great capacity for both good and evil that it entails. However, some undead, especially those who die in combat or under extreme stress and are raised soon after, enter into a violent, frenzied state. Undead in this state are easily manipulated and their rage is often directed at the foes of those who raised them. After the effects wear off, if the risen corpse has not been destroyed, they are given the same ultimatum that other Forsaken are offered: join the Dark Lady or return to the grave.[5]

Each Forsaken member follows their queen for various reasons: fear, loyalty, and nowhere else to go.[6]


Prince Tenris Mirkblood

A San'layn blood prince.

The majority of Darkfallen are high elves that were resurrected in the Third War by Arthas Menethil and in the later years by Sylvanas Windrunner herself. There are also some resurrected blood elves for example the San'layn and some death knights. As undead, these elves have now blood-red eyes and deathly pale skin.

The San'layn are a sect[7] of vampyr Darkfallen in service to the Scourge.[8] They mostly retain the builds of their still-living kin, however, unlike blood elves, their flesh appears necrotic and, though universally pale, ranges from fleshy pinks and red to gray and light green, and they tend to have either white, blond or dark hair while their eyes have white, green, blue or black glows. Some San'layn have clawed fingers and ears more closely resembling those of a bat; in addition, a few have developed wings.


There are many different kinds of undead, but they have some common traits, such as deteriorating skin or generally unkempt hair.

Incorporeal undead are composed of a substance called ectoplasm, which can have different consistencies depending on climate.[9] Powerful undead are sometimes so infused with evil that it coalesces into a greenish goo known as the ichor of undeath.[10] Some undead bleed this green liquid when wounded,[11] though some have no blood or liquid running through their bodies at all.[12] The majority of undead are in a mindless state, without knowing or controlling their bodies but if the body is kept intact, they could potentially avoid this altogether and live forever.[13] The undead normally do not sleep, as it is not necessary for them.[14][15] There are cases of undead sleeping, especially death knights and Forsaken, but it is seemingly only to rest their bodies. Some undead feel the need to breathe, though they can last at least a dozen days without taking a fresh breath of air,[16] depending on the type of undeath but as they are undead, they don't need air to live.[17] Undead are capable of eating, but they don't need to.[18] They can become drunk,[19][20] but they do not experience the same pleasure from alcohol as the living do,[21] and the Scourge warned its members that "Alcohol is simply not the same".[14] Some undead can smell.[22][23]

Cannibalize HS

Undead cannibalizing a corpse in Hearthstone.

Being an undead has advantages such as dismemberment not being enough to be killed. Some can also reattach their limbs and joints,[24] or replace their body parts by harvesting and sewing on the body parts of others,[25] eat other humanoids and undead,[26] and drain the life force of others.[27] If you want to truly kill an undead for sure, you have to burn the remains of a destroyed body. The Light is known to cause intense pain to the undead, but if used with the intention of healing, though very painful, it is effective.[28] Holy water blessed by the Light has a damaging effect on the undead.[29][30]

Nature of undeath[]

Great Dark Beyond[]


Undead creatures in World of Warcraft.

In the physical universe, the souls of the undead (Forsaken, death knights, or ghouls) are imperfectly attached to their bodies; the dark magic that sustains them is a buffer that prevents their souls from properly joining with their bodies. This is why undead feel only faint sensations of pain or discomfort from most physical stimuli, and why the Light is so painful to their existence. The primary exception to this rule are liches, as liches bind their souls to a phylactery and then use the phylactery to generate a physical form; this process is why lich bodies look nothing like their mortal bodies, and also why you have to destroy a lich's phylactery to truly kill them.[31] Undeath also strips certain parts away from every soul.[32]

Despite all this, there exists at least one account of someone becoming undead through the power of the Light: Calia Menethil.

Aside from their affliction, some undead also suffer from an addiction to terrible vices. Death knights, for example, possess an addiction to inflicting pain. If death knights do not regularly inflict agony upon another creature, they begin to suffer wracking pains that could drive them into a mindless, blood-seeking hysteria.[33] Zombies and Forsaken have a hungering for living flesh[34][35] and San'layn have been known to consume blood.[36]

Generally, most enslaved undead are tormented and restless by their subjugation. Some welcome it if it grants them the benefits of eternal life. Many undead who are sentient enough to understand their circumstances appear emotionally dispassionate if not melancholy. The most known emotions that the undead seem to emote are remorse, pity,[37] or rage.[38] Some undead, especially those who die in combat or under extreme stress and are raised soon after, enter into a violent, frenzied state. Undead in this state are easily manipulated and their rage is often directed at the foes of those who raised them.[39]

Becoming Forsaken is an unpredictable process. The body and mind are certain to change, but it is impossible to know to what extent and how well someone will cope with the process. According to Lilian Voss, everyone go a little mad when they become Forsaken, and some more than others.[40]

Undead experience dulled senses such as touch, smell,[23] and taste. Some find that while their rotted tongues can taste very little, they've become accustomed to the textures and sensations of food instead.[41] There are reports that when influenced by the Holy Light, some Forsaken have slowly experienced a sharpening of their dulled senses, as well as an increase in the flashes of positive emotions that have otherwise become rare since their fall into undeath. The drawback, however, is that they also become disgusted with themselves and are likely to increase attempts at their own self-destruction; for regaining these senses would force the undead to smell their own rotting flesh, taste the decay in their mouths and throats, and even feel the maggots burrowing within their bodies.[23]

Some of those that freed themselves from the Lich King's grasp are tormented by memories of the unspeakable horrors that they committed as mindless Scourge agents and are driven into madness or consumed by regret, whereas others embrace their new condition and may go on to indulge in their vile vices. Others don't even remember their time as a mindless slave of the Scourge and so bear no emotional trauma from it at all.[42] Thought the person might be traumatized by their experience as an undead, once released their soul will be judged by the entirety of their existence, and, as such, they might still reach a positive afterlife.[43]


Afterlives - Protectors of Maldraxxus

The Maldraxxi of the House of the Chosen.

In Maldraxxus, the birthplace of necromantic magic, the souls of the ambitious and contentious are forged into an immortal army charged with the defense of the Shadowlands.[44] It is a place all about flesh shaping and resources given to Maldraxxi to become the best army they can. Someone arriving in Maldraxxus is given a very basic kind of form that they can inhabit and then based on their victories or their losses they get upgrades or downgrades to that body, while masters of the powers of death turn legions of ambitious souls into relentless immortal armies, and necrotic soldiers are forged by an eternity of war or are made from the bodies taken as spoils of war.[45]

Characteristics in World of Warcraft[]

WoW Icon update This section concerns content related to the original World of Warcraft.

Types of undead[]


Corporeal undead are average corpses or body parts reanimated by the plague or necromancers, or are various body parts stitched together into abominations.


Skeletal undead are skeletons animated by magic.


Incorporeal undead are ghosts and spirits of the dead.

Undead factions[]

Faction Leader Former leader(s) Description Capital Status
The Not-Living IconSmall Galakrond Galakrond † None A group of undead proto-dragons created after being cannibalized by Galakrond. They served as his main army against the other proto-dragons, and they were the first undead threat that Azeroth ever faced. The not-living were ultimately destroyed during the future Aspects' final battle against Galakrond. Northrend Destroyed
The Scourge None IconSmall NewLichKing The Lich King (Defunct) Originally created by the Kil'jaeden to help usher the Burning Legion into Azeroth, it went rogue after the Battle of Mount Hyjal and waged a war to destroy all life on Azeroth. Following the fall of the Lich King, the Scourge has become passive before the destruction of the Helm of Domination. It now marauds masterless all across Azeroth. Icecrown Citadel Active
The Forsaken ForsakenForsaken The Desolate Council IconSmall Sylvanas Sylvanas Windrunner A breakaway group from the Scourge formed after they retook the Capital City of Lordaeron, they swore revenge against the Lich King and joined the Horde in an alliance of convenience. Ruins of Lordaeron Active
Cult of the Damned Unknown IconSmall NecromancerIconSmall Kel'ThuzadSL Kel'Thuzad
IconSmall Nathrezim Mal'Ganis
A cult that seeks to obtain immortality through undeath. They served the Scourge while Arthas Menethil was the Lich King, and since his demise have struggled to hold their claims in the Plaguelands from encroaching Alliance, Horde, and Argent Crusade forces. They re-emerged through Azeroth following the fall of the Lich King Bolvar against Sylvanas Windrunner, answering the call of Zovaal the Jailer. Mord'rethar Active
Rotbrain Undead IconSmall Undead Male Marcus Redpath † None A breakaway group from the Forsaken, raised by the Val'kyr and united by their refusal to join Forsaken society. The group was ultimately destroyed in its infancy by Forsaken adventurers. Rotbrain Encampment Disbanded
The Risen IconSmall Nathrezim Balnazzar † None Created by Balnazzar by killing Scarlet Crusaders and raising them into undeath with the intention of using them to take conquer the Plaguelands for the Burning Legion. Ultimately they were stopped when adventurers killed their demonic leader. Scarlet Bastion Disbanded
Necrolord Covenant IconSmall Primus The Primus None A ruling faction of the Shadowlands and the inventors of necromancy. They use the souls of the strong, durable, and ambitious to create an undead militia to protect the Shadowlands. At the time of the opening of the rift between the Shadowlands and Azeroth, they had lost their leader and were approaching dangerously close to civil war, until the latter returned with the help of the Maw Walkers. Seat of the Primus Active

In the RPG[]

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

Independent undead[]

Independent undead are undead who maintain their own free will. Not all undead from Azeroth fall under the auspices of the Scourge. Some undead resisted the command of the Lich King or his minions, while others arose through individual circumstances. Although they have no direct ties to the Scourge, such monsters are no less dangerous.[47] Despite being free of the Lich King's influence, some independent undead still choose to serve the Lich King.[48]

Notes and trivia[]

  • Tears are not possible for an undead.[49]
  • The Forsaken male player character claims to be colorblind due to undeath.[50]
  • For game balance, Forsaken players are classified as humanoids for gameplay reasons because, in a PvP setting, they would be massacred with Spell holy excorcism 02 [Exorcism], Spell holy excorcism [Holy Wrath], Ability paladin turnevil [Turn Evil], and Spell nature slow [Shackle Undead], but they would also be immune to other CC such as Spell nature polymorph [Polymorph] and Spell shadow possession [Fear]. Forsaken were classified as undead in the World of Warcraft beta, but it proved to be too problematic with PvP balance. Many Forsaken NPCs are also considered humanoid.


Warcraft III concept art
Warcraft III


  1. ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
  2. ^ N [60] Power of the Primus
  3. ^ - Shadowlands
  4. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment. Shadowlands - Home. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.
  5. ^ Ask CDev - Round 3 Answers
  6. ^ Loreology on Twitter (dead link)
  7. ^ H [60] Magus Installation
  8. ^ Underdev/Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Throne
  9. ^ N [60] Hunting for Ectoplasm
  10. ^ N Priest [52] The Ichor of Undeath
  11. ^ File:Forsaken bleeding green.jpg A playable Forsaken character bleeding green
  12. ^ World of Warcraft: Traveler, pg. 96
  13. ^ Dave Kosak on Twitter (2012-09-30).​ “They're in a state of 'preserved decay,' depending on condition when raised. Could live forever if body kept in-tact!”
  14. ^ a b Guide to the Side Effects of Reanimation
  15. ^ Stormrage, pg. 56
  16. ^ Inv misc book 03 [Diving Log]
  17. ^ Loreology on Twitter (2013-11-19)
  18. ^ H [10-60] Crabulous Feast
  19. ^ H [52] Andron's Payment to Jediga
  20. ^ Delvar Ironfist
  21. ^ "For Lies and Liberty"
  22. ^ Lieutenant Dennis Grimtale#Gossip - "I can actually smell the stink of the ocean here."
  23. ^ a b c Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
  24. ^ Traveler, pg. 220
  25. ^ H IconSmall Undead MaleIconSmall Undead Female [1-10] The Wakening
  26. ^ Ability racial cannibalize [Cannibalize]
  27. ^ Spell shadow fingerofdeath [Touch of the Grave]
  28. ^ Bloodsworn
  29. ^ Inv potion 75 [Stratholme Holy Water]
  30. ^ A [15-30] A Righteous Sermon
  31. ^ Nyorloth on the Official Forums - 09/02/2012
  32. ^ We Ride Forth, pg. 3
  33. ^ Ask CDev#Ask CDev Answers - Round 2
  34. ^ Inv misc head scourge 01 [Dual-Plagued Brain]: "Living Flesh eases the pain... Please, I just need a little. A finger or ear would do..."
  35. ^ Baron Ashbury#Quotes: "And perhaps the best part, I now have a hungering for the flesh of other humanoids. Cannibalizing their rotten corpses grants me power. Yes, DE-LI-CIOUS..."
  36. ^ H [10-30] Shatter the Orbs!
  37. ^ Micky Neilson on Twitter: "I believe they feel positive emotions only briefly/rarely."
  38. ^ Lord Walden#Quotes
  39. ^ Ask CDev - Round 3 Answers
  40. ^ H [60] Scattering Our Enemies
  41. ^ All Tea, No Shadeleaf#Notes
  42. ^ Before the Storm, chapter 19
  43. ^ Judgehype - Interview de Steve Danuser sur l'histoire de Shadowlands
  44. ^ Necrolord Covenant: A Closer Look Inside the Might of Maldraxxus
  45. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Blizzard Entertainment 2020-06-11. Shadowlands Preview: Maldraxxus and the Necrolord Covenant. Archived from the original on 2020-06-11.
  46. ^ a b Traveler: The Spiral Path, chapter 21
  47. ^ Manual of Monsters, pg. 132
  48. ^ Magic & Mayhem, pg. ?
  49. ^ Fate
  50. ^ Forsaken /silly emote: "Roses are grey, violets are grey, I'm dead and colorblind."