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Be feared or be fuel.
~ Gul'dan
And what, Gul'dan, must we give in return?
Everything...
~ Gul'dan's answer to Grommash, as well as one of his most popular quotes.

Gul'dan, known also as "Darkness Incarnate" and "The Destroyer of Dreams", was the main antagonist of Warcraft 1: Orcs & Humans, Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness and a recurrent posthumous villain in Warcraft 3 Realm of Chaos and World of Warcraft universe, until he "returned" in one of the expansions of the last one mentioned to be one of the primary antagonists of the game. Originally a shaman, he became the first orcish warlock as well as the de facto founder of the Orcish Horde. He is the honored apprentice to the elder shaman named Ner'zhul.

History

As Ner'zhul rallied the orcs for a war against the draenei at the behest of the demonlord Kil'jaeden, who hid behind the facade of a powerful ancestor referred to as "The Beautiful One", Gul'dan supported Ner'zhul fully. However, when Ner'zhul began to notice that they could no longer call upon the power of the elements or the ancestors, the shaman began to sense something was amiss. He discovered at Oshu'gun that he had been duped by Kil'jaeden and attempted to back out.

Abandoning the ways of shamanism and betraying both his people and his mentor to Kil'jaeden for personal gain and power, Gul'dan was directly responsible for the orcs' fall to demonic enslavement as well as for the Horde's invasion of Azeroth.As a test of the Horde's strength, Gul'dan and the Shadow Council guided the orcs into murdering every single Draenei they could find on their homeworld. Tutored by the lord of the Burning Legion, he became the founder and master of the Shadow Council as well as the creator of the necromantic terrors known as death knights. Gul'dan is considered by many to have been the most cunning and powerful mortal warlock to ever have existed.

Ultimately, Gul'dan's thirst for power proved to be the Horde's undoing. On the eve of Doomhammer's attack on Lordaeron's capital, Gul'dan took the Stormreaver and Twilight's Hammer clans and set out to sea to locate the Tomb of Sargeras. With nearly half of his standing forces suddenly gone, Doomhammer was forced to retreat and hunt down the traitorous warlock. This reprieve would ultimately give the Alliance time to regroup and retaliate. The remainder of his clans were slaughtered upon Doomhammer's arrival. In those last moments, Gul'dan realized that he, like his former mentor, had just been Sargeras' pawn, lured by promises of power to facilitate the Dark Titan's agenda. After his death, his skull became a powerful arcane relic until its powers were absorbed by Illidan Stormrage.

Alternate Timeline

In the alternate timeline Gul'dan was born in unknown clan deformed, weak and crippled what make him by his clansmen target of mockery and despisal since his childhood. In his exile Gul'dan traveled to Throne of the Elements where even elements shunned him and welcomed by Burning Legion and taught him, feeling powerful after mastering new power he returned to his old village as Harbringer of their Fury wiping out his birthplace killing his former chieftain and clansmen including shaman who was kind to him claiming his staff and ring leaving burning village. After Garrosh Hellscream, came from main timeline of Azeroth Gul'dan still offered the orcish clans the blood of Mannoroth to the orcish clans of Draenor. Garrosh's father Grommash Hellscream was to take the first drink, but Garrosh had informed him that doing so would lead to the orcs enslavement by the Burning Legion. When Grom rejected the offering, Mannoroth himself appeared, angered by the rejection of his 'gift'. However, the orcs suddenly attacked the pit lord with the technology Garrosh had brought with him from the present. After being blasted by an iron star, Mannoroth met his end when Grom plunged Gorehowl into his forehead. As the pit lord's body exploded, Garrosh pushed Grom out of harm's way, saving him from what had claimed his life in the original timeline.

With the Legion's plot foiled, a cowering Gul'dan excalimed that this was not the orc's destiny, but Garrosh simply told him that times changed. The warlock's plans to invade Azeroth were repurposed to suit the new Iron Horde. Gul'dan and his chief lieutenants, Cho'gall and Teron'gor, were imprisoned. Their magic was drained to power the Dark Portal that connected the alternate Draenor to Azeroth in the current timeline, until they were set free by adventurers to seal the portal. Eventually, they were freed by Alliance or Horde adventurers that were tasked with destroying the portal to stop the Iron Horde's invasion.

After adventurers slay crippled the Blackrock foundry and killed Blackhand, The Iron Horde was heavily weakened. The garrison commander, with the aid of Garona Halforcen, watch as Gul'dan again offers the blood of Mannoroth to Grommash and showed Grommash Gorehowl, telling him about Garrosh's death. Grommash, saddened by Garrosh's death and bound by honor still refuses and attacks Gul'dan. Gul'dan succeeds in stopping him with magic and imprisons him, offering the remaining orcs the same choice to drink. Killrogg takes the blood and is corrupted while Gul'dan takes the rest of the Iron Horde. Gul'dan takes control of the Hellfire Citadel for the Burning Legion's operations. He musters Archimonde into Draenor for the final battle. Overcomed, Archimonde throws Gul'dan into the Twisting Nether for failing the Legion.

After his defeat, Gul'dan is sent to the main timeline, in the Broken Isles, under the supervision of Kil'Jaeden himself in order to summon the Legion to Azeroth once more with the remainding power of the Tomb of Sargeras. After being persecuted by Khadgar and Maiev, Gul'dan succesfully gathers enough power from the magic seals of the Tomb to think about stop working with the Legion and set himself as a god of Azeroth, Kil'Jaeden then appears to him luring him with the promise of a thousand worlds more to reign. Convincing enough, Gul'dan finally opens a portal for the Legion to enter, Commencing then the fourth war.

In the events during the Broken Shore, the forces of the Horde and Aliance united sends an offensive with their greatest heroes: Varian Wyrm, Genn Greymare, Jainna and Gelbin Mekkatorque as the generals of the Alliance, and with Thrall, Sylvannas, Vol'jin and Baine Bloodhoff as the warlords of the horde. During the attack,Gul'dan stands in the siege as he kills Tirion Fordring with felfire before the heroes as a mockery. Later is shown that even the Horde and Alliance together are no match for the newfound Legion. Vol'jin is mortally wounded while battling demons, forcing Sylvannas and the Horde to retreat.

In turn, without the Horde to aid them, the Alliance attempted to escape on a gunship, but Gul'dan nearly thwarted this by summoning a massive fel reaver, which grabbed hold of the fleeing gunship. However, Varian sacrificed himself by destroying the fel reaver before being sudbued by demons, granting the Alliance escape. Gul'dan personally executes Varian, whom he refers as "the king who sacrificed his life for nothing", by disintegrating him with fel magic.

Gul'dan would remain in the Night Hold located in Suramar. He convinced the leader of the Nightborn, Elisande, to either join forces or have her people die a horrible to the Legion, to which she accepts. When players reach him in the Night Hold, Gul'dan is seen attempting another ritual in order to summon the remaining leaders of the Burning Legion, and it is here players can finally fight him directly. Despite his best efforts to defeat his opponents, including draining power from the ritual itself, increasing his size, he is defeated. After this, he loses most of his powers and the ritual comes to a halt, much to his horror. As he processes everything that just happened in his mind, Illidan appears from behind. Grabbing the warlock by his throat, Illidan then uses his fel power to finally bring an end to Gul'dan the same way the orc killed Varian. All that remained of Gul'dan was his skull in the Demon Hunter's hand, but rather than absorb its power, he crushes it in his hand, leaving no trace of Gul'dan ever again.

Personality

Gul’dan possesses an unquenchable thirst for power and a ruthless personality. Equally willing to manipulate friend and foe alike, he constantly tries to better his station in life through any means possible. Even though Gul’dan constantly tends to be embroiled in many different plots and schemes, his overarching goal is always to discover the location of the Tomb of Sargeras and to claim the dark titan’s powers for himself. Nothing else matters in comparison to this quest, and Gul’dan is willing to betray his own people and sacrifice his closest friends to achieve it.

Gul’dan can only be trusted to do what is in his own best interests. He often freely offers wealth to people in exchange for clues or information that might be useful, and then has them killed and reclaims his payment. Gul’dan only truly trusts people who are like himself — those who are openly ambitious and who will do anything to improve their lot in life. He feels that those people can be most easily predicted and manipulated through offers of wealth or prestige. It is the people who serve higher moral or religious powers that he fears. They are often resistant to his lures, and in Gul’dan’s eyes can never be completely trusted or relied upon. Because of this, he tends to associate most easily with mages, sorcerers, rogues and scouts and dislikes druids, priests and paladins. His allegiance is with the Horde, and he is openly hostile to members of the Alliance races unless they are key to something Gul’dan desires.

Appearances in other media

Gul'dan made an appearance as the main antagonist of the 2016 fantasy action film Warcraft and he is portrayed by Daniel Wu. He is an evil orc warlock and the leader of the Horde. He plans on turning Azeroth into the next Orc home when theirs is dying. He has his Orcs kidnap humans to sacrifice for the portal to get the rest of the orcs in. He kills Durotain when he learns that his fel magic is responsible for destroying the Orc home. His plan is stopped by Lothar and Khadgar who stopped his portal from opening and he loses most of his Orcs' respect and their commandment when Garona becomes the new leader of the Horde.

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