The Horde is in a tough spot. Its leader, Sylvanas, has gone off the deep end, murdering loads of innocent Night Elves and provoking a fresh war with the Alliance. Horde players, confused and demotivated by the actions of their evil leader, are looking for new blood, a new hope in this time of crisis. They need a hero and, well, they might have just found him.
His name, is Zappy Boi.
Yep, Zappy Boi.
Yesterday, Blizzard continued its build-up to World of Warcraft expansion Battle for Azeroth with the release of a new cinematic called Old Soldier. In it, renowned orc warrior Varok Saurfang denounces the senseless actions of Sylvanas as she watches the World Tree and the innocent Night Elves who called it home burn. "There is no honour in this," Saurfang says, as if he's speaking for the entire Horde playerbase. "They will come for us now! All of them!"
Fast forward, and, yes, Saurfang was indeed right. The Alliance - all of them - has come for the Horde at Lordaeron. Saurfang, surveying the battlefield and the destruction that is to come, removes his armour.
Enter, Zappy Boi.
Zappy Boi is a seemingly young and naive troll who is worried about the battle ahead. "This be my first battle," he says. "What should I do?"
"Don't die," Saurfang snorts.
"Yes, of course, but if I do fall, may it be with honour in glorious combat."
Saurfang slams his armour to the floor.
"There will be no glory today," he says, stomping off.
Saurfang remembers the day his son earned his warrior's death on the field of battle. This is something Saurfang yearns for, something he knows he won't get in the upcoming battle with the Alliance. This battle is tarnished, he believes, by Sylvanas' murderous rampage. There is no honour in it.
And so, he marches toward the Alliance forces - on his own - to meet his death. With torch and axe in hand, Saurfang is a dead orc walking.
And then Zappy Boi turns up.
As Zappy Boi catches up with the orc, he removes his armour. "Go back to your father," Saurfang says, pushing the troll to the ground.
Zappy Boi gets up. "I can't. He's dead. The Horde, it's all we have."
Saurfang, angered at the suggestion the troll somehow knows him, once again pushes him to the ground.
But Zappy Boi gets up again.
"Oh give up, boy," Saurfang says.
This stops Saurfang in his tracks.
"Live another day," Zappy Boi says, displaying a wisdom beyond his years.
Saurfang's mind is changed, and he rests his giant hand on Zappy Boi's shoulder. The battle is about to begin.
"Without armour?" Saurfang asks. The pair run back to the Horde encampment, Zappy Boi picking his armour up as he goes. The battle has begun. Saurfang turns to face his enemy and unleashes a battle cry that sends shivers up the spine.
Perhaps Saurfang will live to fight another day after all.
The rousing cinematic is just the tonic the Horde playerbase needed after a difficult week that has seen Blizzard come in for criticism for its storytelling and some moronic harassment of female World of Warcraft writers. The reception to Old Soldier has been overwhelmingly positive. It's seen 101,000 likes on YouTube from over 2.5m views. Players see it as a rallying call, a sign that the Horde itself, like them, isn't okay with what Sylvanas is doing and, despite it, may still find a way to fight with honour.
But, more than that, World of Warcraft players have latched onto Zappy Boi, the young troll who turned Saurfang around. Zappy Boi, as you've probably guessed, isn't the troll's real name (it's Zekhan). The community came up with the nickname after he appeared in a trailer promoting Battle for Azeroth released in November 2017. In it, an unnamed troll shaman casts a lightning spell during the battle Old Soldier leads up to, hence Zappy Boi.
Blizzard picked up on this nickname, tweeting a clip of the troll in action and using the hashtag Zappy Boi.
Now, after his star turn in the Old Soldier cinematic, Zappy Boi has become pretty much the most popular character in World of Warcraft. r/wow is packed with threads devoted to the plucky troll, with a huge number of upvotes supporting the game's bright new hope.
Redditor Eastgaard posted a thread titled Wholesome Zappy Boi Meme for the Horde to unite over in these dark times... with the below image, which sums up the sentiment.
In-game, a huge number of players creating Zappy Boi characters. Redditor Magnificent_Mikoyose posted the screenshot below to r/wow:
So, the fire that fuels the Horde is rekindled - for now. But important questions remain: what will Blizzard do with Zappy Boi? Will he survive the battle? Will he become one of World of Warcraft's next great characters?
Battle for Azeroth comes out on 14th August, so we don't have long to find out.