Four Reasons Why Med’An Is Awful And Should Never Return

Whenever Med’an comes up in conversation, I will usually fall back on my joke about him spending time in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, training in 1000x Azeroth gravity, raising his power level over 9000. For the most part, I think this really communicates how seriously I take the character… which is to say I don’t take him seriously at all, because he’s really an awful character and BOY LET ME TELL YOU WHY:

Reason #1: Origin Story

Med’an’s appearance in the WoW comic series coincides with the reintroduction of Garona Halforcen into the Warcraft narrative, and retracing Garona’s history is a big part of the issue I have with Med’an: Garona was established as a half-orc/half-human in The Last Guardian, intended to be an agent of Gul’dan who ingratiated herself to Medivh, whom Gul’dan had cooperated with to open the Dark Portal but didn’t trust. The book has Garona eventually aiding in the assassination of Medivh, in which she gets cursed and loses her mind. Warcraft 1′s narrative has her go on to kill King Llane Wrynn and later betray Gul’dan after being tortured by Orgrim Doomhammer.

What the WoW comic would sell us is that Garona is half-orc/half-draenei (since the human part doesn’t compute with the retroactively-shortened timeline of the First War period) and that despite Medivh being crazypants, he was able to romance Garona completely off-screen and get a child on her. Then, after the whole litany of stuff I listed before, Garona leaves her newborn child with an undead sorcerer (who predates the Scourge/Forsaken and is just undead because reasons) and then disappears from the narrative for decades. Med’an grows up knowing nothing of his mother or his heritage, learning arcane magic and stick-fighting from Meryl, keeping 100% under the radar from the victorious orcish invasion of the continent, the human reconquest following the Second War, and everything since then. This all presents a huge volume of unanswered questions:

  • How did Sargeras, who was INSIDE MEDIVH, not know of Med’an’s existence?
  • How did the romance go unnoticed and how did it work biologically when there’s no evidence of human/orc pairings aside from pre-retcon Garona?
  • How did Meryl become the only person Garona could trust specifically after she was cursed in a manner that prevents her from acting with any degree of loyalty to anyone?
  • Even if you can accept Med’an’s simple existence and survival on Azeroth, the final question is about where his importance to the Twilight’s Hammer comes into play: how can there be a prophecy about him uniting a bunch of magical paths together to be a weapon for the Old Gods?

The avalanche of logical jumps we have to make in order to buy that Med’an even exists at this point is just part one of why Med’an is an awful character. His story is the same kind of contrived superhero comic book narratives that gave us the Maximum Clonage narrative for Spider-man, or Jean Grey surviving the Dark Phoenix saga. It strains credulity.

Reason #2: Power Scale

Med’an possesses an overwhelming aptitude for magic. This is to the extent where when push comes to shove, Jaina, Aegwynn, and a bucketful of other characters decide to pour their magic into him to make him the new Guardian of Tiris Fal so that he can throw down with the Old God-empowered version of Cho’gall. There’s no character in the entirety of the canon, not even Medivh, who has even the potential for that level of power. The original Guardian was always a champion specifically of Arcane magic, and while Medivh inherited that from Aegwynn instead of being granted it, and while his studies into demonology gave him access to fel magic, he still never expressed anything that employed divine magic, or shamanistic or druidic magic. To say that Med’an is gamebreakingly powerful is really an understatement, because there’s absolutely no one who has the same access to power that he appears to have, and which he appears to have acquired entirely coincidentally without any actual effort on his part.

Introducing Med’an into the narrative invites the Superman problem into Azeroth: if he’s got a full deck of powers he can draw from, what can possibly threaten him? What situation can challenge Med’an when he simply cannot be countered by anything? He’s a walking deus ex machina for any conflict. Quite frankly, within the gameplay of World of Warcraft, that role belongs to the player characters; there is no boss we cannot defeat if we are given an encounter with that boss. If Med’an were implemented as-is, he’d either have to be completely inconsequential to the story (which begs the question of why he’s being included in the first place) or he’d resolve the problem himself, shutting players out of the ability to resolve the problem by bringing the boss to zero HP.

Reason #3: Character

The problem with Med’an’s personal character is this: the only thing that differentiates him from Anduin as a character is his parentage. Otherwise, he’s exactly the same kind of earnest young hero who abhors violence, wishes for a peaceful resolution, but will reluctantly use force if it ultimately leads to peace. He’s neutral in the Alliance/Horde conflict. He’s got a conflicted and complicated relationship with his one surviving parent, and he’s got a surrogate parent who lately has become a little less than noble as a matter of consequence. Why do we need Med’an when Anduin hits all of the same notes without being gamebreakingly powerful?

There is nothing new or original that Med’an brings to the table compared to the list of existing NPC characters in the game, except for his grossly overpowered access to all paths of magic. Mitigate his superpower and he loses his only unique quality. Keep his superpower and he solves every problem without player engagement. Alter his character too dramatically and he’s not the character comic readers wanted. Maintain his character, and players who didn’t read the comic are going to be sitting there saying “who’s this fucker and why isn’t he letting me kill this boss?”

Reason #4: Completely Unnecessary

Now, could this be mitigated? Could Med’an be introduced in a way where he doesn’t have the same gross power potential and get deployed similarly to how Thrall and Jaina have been used to prop up the power of the PCs? Yeah, sure. But Med’an’s overall complete irrelevance to the Warcraft narrative makes it implausible to do that: why use Med’an when Thrall or Jaina or Khadgar or Maraad or Anduin or Drek’thar are all more recognizable options? The only place where Med’an WOULD have had any relevance would have been in finally killing Cho’gall in Bastion of Twilight, but neither he nor Garona (who swore to end Cho’gall and then did exactly nothing of consequence) showed up for that. Med’an might arguably have a beef with C’thun, but C’thun’s avatar in Cho’gall is already dead, and you can’t kill C’thun AGAIN. Med’an doesn’t have any other relationship with the remaining Old Gods, so deploying him there wouldn’t make any sense.

You’d need to come up with an entire narrative centered on why Med’an is the key to the story, just as Thrall was key to the narrative in Cataclysm as the stand-in for the Aspect of Earth. And the problem with doing that is that players didn’t really dig how Thrall got a whole bunch of screentime being awesome and doing things when the players were the ones keeping Thrall from totally failing his task.  This is then countered pretty strongly in Mists of Pandaria, because the narrative (Wrathion’s legendary questline especially) really turns the PC into the hero of the story; it’s the PC who unleashes the Sha, but then the PC who goes across Pandaria sealing the Sha again. It’s the PC who gets the Vale opened by the August Celestials. It’s the PC who turns the tide in the Darkspear Rebellion and makes it possible to defeat Garrosh. And it’s the PC who defeats Garrosh when Garrosh punks Thrall RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE PC.

So no. Med’an should never come back, because implementing him would only serve to either duplicate or supplant existing characters who resonate more with the players due to their longer history, OR it would be repeating the mistakes that Blizzard made in the past that broke player engagement in the first place by making an NPC more critical to the plot than the players themselves.

Med’an can stay in his hyperbolic chamber for all eternity. The game will be better for his absence.

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