World of Warcraft takes place in a fantasy world filled with fae creatures, wise beasts, dwarves, orcs, trolls, elves ... more elves, and still more elves. Azeroth’s cup runs over with elves. There are the Night Elves, Nightborne, Highborne, High Elves, Blood Elves, San’layn (they’re vampires), spider elves, Void Elves, and even a few half-elves. Elves in the Warcraft setting are like tofu — apply a new kind of magic to them, and they’re suddenly a whole new species from soaking those vibes up.
But fans have been mad about one specific elf situation for 13 years, ever since the launch of World of Warcraft’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Thirteen years is a long time to be angry about an elf, but the rage finally reached a fever pitch during Battle for Azeroth. Now, Blizzard is taking a bold new stance: Fuck it, High Elves for everybody.
But some fans still want more.
Meet the High Elves
The High Elves are fair, pale-skinned, blue-eyed archers and mages straight from the pages of Tolkien, and they have a storied history in the Warcraft franchise. They first appeared in Warcraft 2, including the hero unit Alleria Windrunner. To old-school fans, they’re an iconic part of the Alliance, like orcs in the Horde.
But in Warcraft 3, the High Elves got genocided by one of the game’s biggest villains, Arthas, on his quest to become the Lich King. The survivors called themselves the “Blood Elves,” and in the MMO, they joined the Horde instead of the Alliance. These Blood Elves were mad at the Alliance, cool with their Forsaken neighbors in the Horde, and also kind of evil.
The Blood Elves started kidnapping demigods and draining their force for goth paladins. They also got addicted to spooky fel magic, and carried out the open brainwashing of protestors in the streets of their city, Silvermoon.
High Elves, by contrast, were a tiny force that struggled to survive in the Alliance. Their numbers were too small to ever be a playable race — again, because they got all but wiped out in Warcraft 3, and the survivors joined the Horde and sucked up fel magic.
The decision to take Silvermoon out of the Alliance was controversial at the time, but it gave the Horde an attractive race. Since then, the Blood Elves have consistently been the most popular race on Horde. The strength of their race-specific abilities is partially why guilds competing for World First would often choose the Horde in the years to come.
The Blood Elves also gave up their evil ways at the end of the Sunwell raid, pledged themselves to be the good guys, and even negotiated to rejoin the Alliance during Mists of Pandaria for a brief time. But Blizzard remained clear: There would never be High Elves on the Alliance.
And then Blizzard introduced the Void Elves, and everything went to shit.
Everyone got mad again
To many players, Void Elves were the pinnacle of “Mom, can we get McDonald’s?” “No, we have McDonald’s at home.” They were introduced as one of the earliest Allied races, during the bridge between Legion and Battle for Azeroth.
During Legion, the aforementioned Alleria Windrunner showed up after being caught in a spacetime rift for 10,000 years, battling demons and learning the shadow arts. She ended up absorbing a creature of pure darkness, which infused her with space shadow powers and the burden of constantly listening to the whispers of the Void.
When a small faction of Void Elves were exiled from Shadowmoon for dabbling in Void Magic, Alleria hunted them down. The player joined them, and unlocked Void Elves. They’re just like Blood Elves, but with various stages of purple and blue. They also have sharp English accents and tentacles.
This raises a lot of questions! Why are there enough Void Elves, but not High Elves? The unlock scenario makes it look like there are, like, 30 of them total. Why are we OK with them, when they openly worship the shadows and have glowing tentacles on their person? Why can’t we just have High Elves?
Well, Blizzard has finally given every player High Elves with the character customization options added for Shadowlands. Void Elves can have Blood Elf skin colors instead of purples and grays, and blue eyes! Blood Elves can have blue eyes! Everyone gets High Elves ... kind of. Mechanically, they’re still Void Elves and Blood Elves, but players have the tools to play pretend.
But this change hasn’t been enough to sate player demands. Now, players want Blood Elf hairstyles on Void Elves. They want the High Elf tattoos from Warcraft 2. And new voices!
It’s a reminder that as much as things change in World of Warcraft, some things will always remain the same. Thirteen years later, High Elves are still one of the biggest controversies. Blizzard mostly solved it ... but players still want more, hoping that this latest gesture is just the start of an overhaul that will finally give them High Elves.
And once that’s done, people will no doubt begin to ask for San’layn, Naga, and undead elves. Azeroth is rich with elves, and everyone wants a piece.