WARNING: SHADOWLANDS STORY SPOILERS AND SPECULATION AHEAD!
Kel’Thuzad’s Storyline in Shadowlands
Kel’Thuzad was one of the first NPCs that were datamined with new models, indicating that he would take a role in the Shadowlands storyline.
Kel’Thuzad’s involvement in the events of Shadowlands can be seen as early as the Bastion leveling storyline. One of the temples of Bastion, the Temple of Courage, is attacked by the House of Constructs of Maldraxxus at the end of the Bastion storyline campaign, and much of the leveling campaign in Maldraxxus involves dealing with the ramifications of said attack.
The House of Constructs
The attack on the Temple of Courage is brought up again during an intersection of the Kyrian and Necrolord Covenant campaigns, where both Covenants join forces to siege the House of Constructs and defeat Margrave Gharmal. During the siege on the House of Constructs, a quest from both Covenants requires you to destroy communicators used by Margrave Gharmal (Kyrian: Grave Intent / Necrolord: Grave Intent).
These communicators give messages mentioning how the new Baron of the House of Rituals was the one that guided Gharmal into looking for Kyrian parts to empower his constructs:
Gharmal: Our new allies have granted us power beyond imagining. Sin’dane’s new baron spoke true!
Gharmal: Our kyrian juggernauts will vanquish all who dare oppose the House of Constructs!
Gharmal: Bastion was only the beginning. Soon all will be bound to our flesh!
After Margrave Gharmal is defeated, the Kyrian Campaign leaves the zone with the heart of the Margrave to be used as a power-up to their Crest of Ascension (Kyrian: Take Heart), but the Necrolord Campaign investigates the fallen Margrave tower to see what they could find (Necrolord: Gharmal’s Tower) – The answer being Revendreth anima canisters, thus creating the link between the traitorous factions in Maldraxxus and Revendreth.
The Maldraxxi Camp in Revendreth
In the Venthyr Campaign, a Maldraxxi camp in Revendreth is revealed in a similar fashion – While helping Kael’thas Sunstrider with his journey towards redemption, an investigation in one of Revendreth’s district reveals Maldraxxian Weapons, and further investigation reveals that the one Revendreth commander that is still devoted to the now fallen Sire Denathrius, the Tithelord, is in league with someone very powerful from Maldraxxus.
The Tithelord: Now that we are away from itching ears…
The Tithelord: You can reassure Lady Ouix’Ara that our plan remains intact.
The Tithelord: We may even be able to increase the rate that we are supplying her with anima.
Cloaked Figure: That would please the archlich greatly.
The Tithelord: Of course it would. Inform your lady I am still in charge.
The Tithelord: Everything will proceed, unless she fails to uphold her side…
Cloaked Figure: The archlich will not allow her failure.
The Tithelord: I am pleased that we see eye to eye.
With this information, Kael’thas and the Venthyr player discover the location of the Maldraxxi camp. At this point, the Necrolord and Venthyr campaigns cross over, with both campaigns investigating the Maldraxxi camp – Venthyr investigates with Kael’thas, Necrolord investigates with Kael’thas and Draka. Eventually, it is revealed that a lich, Lady Ouix’ara, is in command of the camp. Both campaigns kill the lady (Venthyr: Lady Ouix’Ara / Necrolord: It’s Treason, Then). Ouix’ara reveals to both campaigns that Kel’thuzad is the lich behind her:
Ouix’Ara: Unbind me! What magic is this?
Kael’thas: Why are you sending anima to Maldraxxus? Who do you serve? Answer me!
Ouix’Ara: You cannot stop my master! He is allied with the Banished One himself!
Kael’thas: Who? Who is your master?
Ouix’Ara: I serve the mighty Kel’Thuzad! And he will conquer all of–ARRGGHH!
Ouix’Ara: I… will… return…
Kael’thas: Kel’Thuzad! The defiler of the Sunwell! At last, I will claim justice for Silvermoon!
While the Venthyr campaign leaves the camp after this discovery (Venthyr: Enough Vengeance For One Day), the Necrolord campaign investigates a bit more, finding a communicator used by Kel’Thuzad. By interacting with this communicator, it is discovered that Kel’Thuzad was drawing upon one of the Prime of Maldraxxus’s artifacts, the Pauldrons of Imperium, to empower Ouix’ara and her operations in Revendreth.
Draka: The lich was drawing upon a source of great power…
Draka: By the Five Houses… the Pauldrons of the Primus!
Kel’Thuzad: Meddlers! You dare strike down my underling and steal the pauldrons I bestowed upon her?!
Kel’Thuzad: No matter. The House of Rituals serves my will. Should you be so bold, face me there!
Kael’thas: I will make Kel’Thuzad pay for what he’s done! Baroness Draka! I insist you escort me to Maldraxxus at once!
Draka: Do not make demands of me, fallen prince! We must learn more about this threat we face before rushing in foolishly.
Draka: This lich imperils both our realms. When our forces are prepared to strike, we will send the call for Revendreth to join the fight.
Defeating the Tithelord
The Venthyr Campaign then returns to kill the Tithelord, the last remaining traitorous medallion holder and the one who served as a communicator between the traitorous Maldraxxus and Revendreth forces. During the fight with the Tithelord, Kel’Thuzad joins the fray, but true to his traitorous nature, leaves the Tithelord to die by the hands of Prince Renathal and the Venthyr champion (Venthyr: The Tithelord).
The Tithelord: Archlich! Join me! Use the medallion you were given and together we can crush this Maw Walker.
Kel’Thuzad: No, I think not. You have served your purpose. Now I must serve mine.
The Tithelord: Where are you going?!
Kel’Thuzad: To the next part of the plan, of course. Do try to slay some of these obstacles before they destroy you.
Battle at the House of Rituals
At the finale of both Venthyr and Necrolord Campaigns, both Covenants join forces to defeat Kel’thuzad by raiding the last stand traitorous house in Maldraxxus, the House of Rituals (Venthyr: The Medallion of Dominion / Necrolord: The Third Fall of Kel’thuzad). Before the character wipe on the Shadowlands Beta, you could only reach the Venthyr finale (as the Necrolord finale had broken steps before that quest). NPCs from both Venthyr (Kaelthas, General Draven) and Necrolord (Vashj, Draka, Mograine, Balmedar) joined forces to defeat Kel’Thuzad in both campaigns. Kel’Thuzad himself could be found inside the House of Rituals if you ghosted through an invisible barrier earlier in Alpha, complete with spectral cats to replace his beloved Mr. Bigglesworth.
It is known that Kel’Thuzad survives this fight, at least on the Venthyr’s end, as Margrave Sin’dane intervenes with the help of the Staff of the Primus and freezes Kel’Thuzad (Screenshot taken from kib0’s Twitch Stream).
What’s In The Future?
With the knowledge that Kel’Thuzad survives the Battle at the House of Rituals, it will be interesting to see where the storyline for Kel’Thuzad goes as the Shadowlands expansion progresses. With Kel’Thuzad’s meddling reaching across three out of the four Covenants we interact within the Shadowlands (it is unknown if Kel’Thuzad interacts with the Night Fae in any way, but the final chapters were not testable before the character wipe due to bugs), the Archlich is shaping himself to potentially an equivalent to what Gul’dan was in Legion.
We do not know much of any raid content in Shadowlands past Castle Nathria, with the exception of certain item models with “MawRaid” in their names. This likely means that the next raid will happen somewhere within the Maw, an area that as of right now, is still largely unable to be explored on Beta, as several areas around the zone are currently unable to be explored for long. Seeing as Kel’Thuzad has definite ties with the jailer, it would be interesting to see him taking a Gul’dan role as the final boss of a mid-expansion raid.
There is also a lot of mystery as to whether Arthas Menethil could be somewhere in the Shadowlands. Developers have hinted at his presence in the Maw a few times now, and this is the second in-game confirmation of a character that has ties with him in the Shadowlands. Uther the Lightbringer, the Paladin that was murdered by Arthas, was sent to Bastion and the memories of his death at the hands of Arthas were strong enough to incite a full-on rebellion within the ranks of the Kyrian. Uther eventually renounces to the way of the Forsworn, but his connection to the Maw is still a big detail that is currently not explored in the Kyrian Campaign.