The Horde (also called the New Horde, Thrall's Horde or Vol'jin's Horde) is one of the two major political factions of the mortal races in Azeroth, its counterpart being the Alliance which the Horde has traditionally been at war with. Driven by unity, the Horde consists of a coalition of disparate races and cultures loosely joined in an alliance of convenience against a hostile world that would see them destroyed. A faction led by off-worlders and composed of outsiders, the Horde has survived the obstacles of Azeroth by bonding together, fighting as family, comrades, or even uneasy allies. Focused, ferocious, and sometimes monstrous, the Horde values strength and honor and is relentlessly opposed to any who threaten the ideals of freedom and hope, but struggles to keep aggression in check.
During Garrosh Hellscream's reign, the faction was plunged into a state of civil war, divided between Hellscream's pan-orc government he referred to as the "True Horde" and the Darkspear Rebellion, comprised of the remaining Horde races, as well as orcs that have decided to oppose Garrosh, under leadership of Vol'jin. After the Siege of Orgrimmar upon the defeat of Garrosh, Vol'jin was chosen as the new Warchief of the Horde with every leader supporting the choice, even Thrall himself. This also marks the first time, when the Warchief's position was held by a person that isn't an orc, signifying a sense of unity between all the member races of the faction, in Vol'jin's own words - The Horde is a family. Following the disastrous Battle for Broken Shore at the start of the third invasion of the Burning Legion, Sylvanas Windrunner was named the new Warchief by a dying Vol'jin, who with his last breath said she must step out of the shadows to lead.
The Horde has throughout the Warcraft story remained the only force that can match up to the Alliance. These two factions have warred several times with their predecessors (Old Horde, Alliance of Lordaeron) having clashed together in the First, Second, and Third Wars. In the Fourth War, the last major conflict as of Battle for Azeroth, the controversial acts by the Horde Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner eventually caused a Horde rebellion led by Varok Saurfang. This led to a temporary unity between the two factions when Varok asked Anduin Wrynn, High King of the Alliance, for aid in assaulting Orgrimmar to end both the reign of Sylvanas and the enmity between the Horde and Alliance. Ultimately, the rebellion caused the Horde to lose its top leadership when Sylvanas killed Varok and abandoned the Horde. With his death and her abandonment, the Fourth War is considered over and the two factions have begun talks of peace, though many surmise it may not last or cannot forgive the atrocities of the past. Currently the Horde and Alliance is in an "uneasy armistice".
The Horde is one of the two factions that player characters belong to―the Alliance being the other―as determined by a given character's race (with the exception of Pandaren which can be both). Besides race, being a member of the Horde or Alliance affects gameplay through what settlements, NPCs, quests, reputation factions and in some cases items and encounters the player may access. Faction mechanics also prevent Horde and Alliance players from talking with each other or making groups together, and most PvP gameplay involves Horde players fighting against Alliance players. The divide between the Horde and Alliance—in regard to gameplay mechanics, story elements, and sometimes in social aspects like faction pride—acts as the core element of the World of Warcraft experience.
In the past, the Horde referred to the orcs and their battle thralls from both Draenor and Azeroth, such as trolls and ogres. Following its utter defeat at the end of the Second War, the Horde's dark power was broken, allowing Thrall to awaken the dormant spirituality of his people and free them from the Burning Legion's control.
During the events of the Third War, Thrall has made lasting bonds with the tauren chief Cairne Bloodhoof and the troll shadow hunter Vol'jin of the Darkspear tribe. The ties between the three races are very close, as both share many similar cultural views. With the help of the tauren, both the orcs and the tribe of trolls have established a place for themselves in Kalimdor. Since then, certain ogre tribes, as well as the Forsaken and blood elves have chosen to affiliate themselves with the Horde.
The present Horde is mostly about surviving in a land that has come to hate them. The orcs are hated because, much like the Forsaken, they were manipulated by corrupt forces that channeled their aggression on unsuspecting foes, thus leaving behind a legacy of brutality and domination. In fact, many races of the Horde have a history of being unscrupulous. Though redeemed and trying to make amends or simply trying to survive, they are not forgiven nor trusted by many members of the Alliance who believe them to be their old selves still. The trolls, tauren and their other allies are the ones who understood them, and so they are hated for that.
In the Third War, before the liberation of the Forsaken from the Scourge and the defection of the blood elves, the Horde allied themselves with the Alliance to rid Azeroth of the Burning Legion. Since then old animosity has risen again, resulting in open conflict on several battlefields, keeping relations between the Horde and Alliance in a state of Cold War. However, the two factions still officially kept a truce despite the rising conflicts until the Battle for the Undercity, when King Varian Wrynn officially declared war.
As of the Cataclysm, with Thrall's departure from the Horde leadership, there were signs of internal strife among the Horde leaders. While Garrosh Hellscream was named acting Warchief of the Horde, several leaders entered in conflict with him. Cairne Bloodhoof challenged Garrosh to an honorable duel, Vol'jin made a veiled death threat against him, while Sylvanas Windrunner came into conflict with him on both an ethical and a tactical level - the use of Val'kyr to raise new soldiers, and the Forsaken Blight as a weapon.
By the time the mists concealing Pandaria dissipated, cracks within the Horde started to emerge. The war had intensified with the surprise mana-bombing of Theramore Isle on Garrosh's orders, the actions of which Baine Bloodhoof and Vol'jin openly disapproved of. In response, Garrosh ordered the Kor'kron to suppress any potential dissent, going as far as subjugating the Darkspear trolls on their own territory. Horde leaders were weary of Garrosh's attempts to harness the sha for his own ends, and the blood elves became increasingly discontented with Garrosh treating them as expendable in his attempts to do so. The exposure of Sunreaver agents taking orders from Garrosh eventually led to the Sunreavers' expulsion from Dalaran, stoking further recriminations from the blood elf leadership towards Garrosh.
After the Thunder King's death the Darkspear Rebellion began in earnest and Horde leader after Horde leader joined it. When at last even Gallywix and the Bilgewater Cartel joined the Rebellion due to Garrosh refusing to pay them for excavating the Heart of Y'Shaarj, Garrosh re-organized his orc forces into the True Horde and, with the power of Y'Shaarj, began a genocidal campaign to conquer Azeroth, subjugate all non-orcish life, and brutally crush all who oppose him. Garrosh and the True Horde were defeated in the ensuing conflict by the Horde rebels and Alliance forces; and ultimately Vol'jin was declared Warchief of the Horde.
Under Vol'jin's command the Horde would engage against the forces of the Iron Horde and later the Burning Legion on Draenor. During the Battle for Broken Shore the Horde and Alliance worked together to prevent the Legion from securing the Broken Shore as a staging ground for their invasion. Both armies would be pushed back, King Varian Wrynn slain, and Vol'jin mortally wounded. In Vol'jin's dying moments he named Sylvanas Windrunner the new Warchief of the Horde and faced with combating the armies of the Burning Legion and the hostility of the Alliance the Horde moved forward to combat the armies of the Burning Legion.
The forces of Azeroth ultimately succeed in defeating the Burning Legion during the third invasion of the Burning Legion and the Horde soon after gain the allegiance of the Highmountain tauren tribes of Highmountain and the Nightborne of Suramar. During the Blood War, the Mag'har clans of Draenor joined the Horde due to the efforts of Eitrigg and the Speaker of the Horde. In the aftermath of the Battle of Dazar'alor, the Zandalari Empire joined the Horde, as its equals.
During the Blood War, the Horde split between Sylvanas loyalists and Varok Saurfang's revolutionaries. Before the two armies could clash at Orgrimmar, Varok Saurfang, recognizing Sylvanas's loyalists as his brothers and sisters in the Horde and unwilling to spill more Horde blood, challenged Sylvanas to Mak'gora. During the duel, Saurfang was able to get Sylvanas to admit that she considered the Horde nothing, which caused the Warchief to swiftly kill him and abandoned the Horde altogether. In the aftermath of Saurfang's death and Sylvanas's betrayal, the Horde rallied together once more, with her former loyalists defecting to his revolution. Following these events, the Horde and the Alliance have entered into an armistice with one another.
Sometime later, the Voldunai vulpera of Vol'dun joined the Horde.