By all means, the traditional definition of a warlock(yes, this is a warlock thread) is a little contradicting to my claim. You may look up the word and see some frivolous things like Oath-breaker, Traitor, liar, enemy, in league with the devil, etc. So for the record, I'm making this post to defend warlocks as per the terms in Warcraft's lore, and not the traditional means, in which case real warlocks probably were all jerks. Meh.
People commonly refer to Warcraft's warlocks as evil because they "associate with demons". This is true. But let's try and separate an actual demon from Warcraft's. In both real mythology/religion, demons are often defined as evil spirits. The difference in Warcraft is that demons are instead, often, mortal races that were lured to evil and transformed as a sort of evil blessing.
A primary example would be the Satyr, former Night Elf Highborn who, along with Xavius, were "blessed" by Sargeras and made stronger. These guys are evil. There's no argument there; they even give themselves titles like Betrayer and Hellcaller as if it were a badge of honour.
But what about the examples we don't know about? The Annihilan, Shivarra, Mo'arg and Sayaad. It would stand to reason that they were all mortal races of their own at one point, but a select few bought into Sargeras's lies and became slaves to the Legion.
Doesn't that also kind of make them victims, too? I have no doubt that Blizzard will probably, over time, introduce counter-part races to the Legion's; the few, like the Draenei, who never followed Sargeras, but instead hid from their mutated brethren. At the same time though, those demons in the Legion are either made to fit into Sargeras's belief of "burn everything", or they're tortured until they submit(see: Ner'zhul).
Coming back to warlocks, like Sargeras, they enslave these demons. And, like Sargeras, they use them as weapons to destroy things. Okay, that's still a bit sick, but there are a few things to consider:
1) Demons are sent back to the Nether when they die anyways, so it's not like they can ever be "cured" of their state.
2) If Warlocks outside the Legion aren't using them, the Legion is.
3) It's technically better for some sycophant of the Alliance to make use of a demon than someone from the Legion, who actually wants to destroy all life in the universe. After all, a demon is ultimately a weapon, albeit a sentient one.
4) By being summoned to Azeroth they are, essentially, being given the best chance to "live" they'll ever get. They are molded into creatures meant only to destroy, and that's what they do, but potentially for a good cause. The only other way for any demon to enter onto a non-legion world is if they're invading it, in which case, it probably won't be a non-legion world for much longer.
5) And as far as justification goes for bringing them into Azeroth...what, ultimately, is the difference between a Voidwalker and a Water Elemental, aside from their nature? They're both beings that don't belong, and they're both slaves to their caster. The only inherent danger with summoning a demon in Warcraft is a lore one: The demon could break free and, thus, turn on you. Which kind of goes with what I think is the real theme of the class, which I get into later.
Moving away from the demon's themselves, one point that could be made against Warlocks is that they are inherently evil because of their spells. Fear, Corruption, Haunt, all that fun creepy doom stuff. But that isn't really evil, that's "dark". Like the Forsaken say, "Dark" paths can lead to victory just as well as righteous ones. It could be the difference between torturing someone who enticing them.
Are those kinds of things evil? No, not to me. Not really. To me, evil would be if someone did dark things in order to accomplish a darker goal. Otherwise they could just be very short-sighted. If your average Mr. Magoo the Felcaster, for example, magically shackled a Pit Lord and made it attack some guy he didn't like, one could say that is kind of an evil thing to do. I would say it's more of a stupid thing to do, since such an action would no doubt inspire revenge of said guy's loved ones or comrades. And those who we classify as evil are, generally, short-sighted above all else. When really, it's the guys who want to see the world itself burn that we have to watch out for.
I could go all nerdy here and make Battlestar Galictica: Razor references and stuff at this point, but I think that would just kill this whole thing for everyone(and drastically inflate a post that does not need unnecessary inflation). But I will reiterate this: Darkness and Evil are not the same thing. You can act in an evil manner, you could even be the biggest jackass in the world. But there's a big difference between a jackass who wants to save lives and a jackass who wants to end them.
I will get nerdy enough however to point out that some of the coolest, even the most tragic of characters in fantasy and gaming have been of the warlock variety. Most notably, to me at least, being Magus, the orphaned prince from Chrono Trigger who was raised by an obese green monster.
Now, I'll talk about the theme of the class, in the ways I best interpreted it while leveling up a warlock on both factions.
Warlocks are, by and far, about discipline, above all else.
From: The Binding: http://www.wowhead.com/quest=1513Leave the sorrow of Dogran and Zankaja to those of us who are longer in years, but remember it, and hold it as protection against the wiles of the dark power you have learned to summon today.
From: Returning The Cleansed Orb: http://www.wowhead.com/quest=4976Take the cleansed orb back to Menara in Ratchet, <name>. Give her my regards and be safe. I truly hope you are able to withstand the temptation and corruption that is sure to come as you follow your path.
Warlocks aren't necessarily bad people, but they are dangerous ones. There's always the chance that the demon they summon is too strong for them, and thus, it will break free of their binding pact, kill them, and then kill everyone else in the area. Of course, Wilfred Fizzlebang is an idiot and did this.
Which is why most warlocks stick to summoning lesser demons. The theme throughout the quests is that they should only take on progression in their art when they are ready, unless they themselves fall victim of the corrupting nature of their magic and thus, become corrupted tools of the Legion themselves.
There's also the intricacies of Fel Magic which, as the lore so "eloquently" explains, is apparently crack magic, like all Arcane magic. Only it's worse because, you know, demons, nasty darkness, etc.
There are other core themes prevalent throughout Warcraft to associate warlocks with evil. Usually these themes revolve around extremism, lack of control, sycophantic nature(mainly with Gul'dan), and philosophical quandaries.
I don't have the quote with me, but there's a conversation in Rise of the Horde, about the nature of death and the need to hunt. When Gul'dan had brought Fel magic to the Orcs, the Frostwolves knew it was bad news but couldn't understand why because it still satisfied their need to hunt. Death happens, why should the manner of it matter? Of course, we know why something like that matters, because we're nerds and have seen/read plenty of stories that explain why it matters. A method of killing that inflicts great pain over a duration is mentally scarring. But the average warlock, or Mr.Magoo the Felcaster would ask, "Who cares? Dead is dead; the manner of death is irrelevant to the result".
Which is where the extremism, I think, comes in. Illidan was tasked with destroying the Lich King, a being with an army that far out numbered any forces Illidan himself could muster. For the greater good, he thought to destabilize Northrend by melting the ice caps and causing a flood. Malfurion argued it as insanity, and he was right: Presumably, if Illidan had done so, it would have ended the lives of the Tuskarr and many other sentient beings that reside in Northrend, as well as make it a continent where none could travel. This logic was not new to Illidan. After all, him and Malfurion partook in it with a little event called The Sundering. Therein lies the difference between Malfurion and his brother: Malfurion would cross the line knowingly, where as Illidan would do it willingly.
And while Illidan is one of my favorite Warcraft characters, let's face it, the guy was an elitist jerk. The end of WC3:TFT was more akin to a final show down between bullies than anything. If anyone rooted for Illidan there, it was for the lesser of two evils.
Which is kind of what annoys me about Warcraft's lore. There is so much potential for warlock-based characters, yet they all end up short-sighted, like a Gul'dan or an Illidan. Either that or Blizzard just hates people named Dan, I dunno.
Okay, maybe I dragged this on too much. I feel I've at least stated all my opinions around Warlocks, evil, and why it's a choice rather than something they are naturally(like some people say about the Forsaken around here). Hypocritically, many people often excuse Death Knights as not being evil because they had no choice and warlocks did. But I would argue that a warlock is more like an idealist computer hacker: Someone who does it for the cha